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January 15, 2017


Filed under: Business Planning,General — Tags: , , — MLWagner @ 8:10 pm

An Introduction to Business Planning: a one-pager

A business plan describes what you do, how you do it, who’s responsible, and what it costs – that’s it. If you only have time to jot your answers onto a post-it-note, then let’s start there. If you have time to dig a little deeper, we’ve got you covered.

A well thought out business plan will accomplish a few tasks for you. They present your vision to potential funders. You may also use the plan to attract partners, help to develop your place in the market, appeal to possible employees, and so on. When beginning to research and gather information for your business plan, include these topic areas:

Business Case: Discuss your proposed industry, your product/services, legal entity and business structure, and how you will have sustained success.

Market Strategy: Describe your market segment and explain why your business has a place within it. Tell us about your customers – who are they, where are they, and why they will spend money with you. Who’s your competition and why are you better.

Financials and Budget Narrative: This is where you include a three-year realistic profit and loss statement and balance sheet. Your budget narrative explains how you arrived at your calculations.

Your document should be a manageable read, about 20 pages with an appendix that could include additional documents like leadership vitae’s, workplan, and cashflow. If you still have gas in the tank, you can break our three major sections into greater detail by including: Executive Summary, Business Description, Marketing Plan, Competitive Analysis, and Management/Operations Plan.

If you are unsure as to how much detail to include in your plan, you can think of it this way; it depends on the nature of your business. If you have a simple concept, you may be able to express it in very few words. On the other hand, if you’re proposing a new kind of business or even a new industry, it may require quite a bit of explanation to get the message across. Happy planning!

July 12, 2016

The Making of a Nonprofit: Business Planning

Create your own .org

Create your own .org

Failing to write a comprehensive business plan is perhaps the most common mistake made by those in the beginning stages of forming a nonprofit. While you are not in the business to make a personal profit; you are in the business of making a profit. Most potential board members, donors, and community partners want to see just how you intend to do that.

Your business planning process will also be the very best guide for you to satisfy the questions you must answer when applying to the IRS for tax exempt status. Adequately filling out IRS Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption, requires you to think through and prepare a few of the following items: Organization Name, Organization Website, Organizational Structure, Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Charitable Purpose, Narrative Description of Organization Activities, List of Officers/Directors/Trustees and Five Highest Paid Employee’s with Proposed Compensation, Titles and Mailing Addresses, Financial Compensation and Conflict of Interest Policy, Narrative and Strategy of Fundraising Activities, and Three Year Financial Projection.

Prepare for your Form 1023

Prepare for your Form 1023

If your IRS application for exemption is approved, you are now open for public inspection. Your business planning materials and your business plan provides you with the audit trail required.

A typical nonprofit business planning process will address all of the critical questions asked by interested parties. The table of contents should include these seven sections:

Executive Summary: This is a synopsis of your business plan and financial snap shot.

Organizational Structure: Describe how your nonprofit is organized, including the staff and board of directors.

Products, Programs or Services: What programs or products are you offering? Include processes, the benefits of your services, future growth plans, and list anything new, on trend, or answering to a community need.

Marketing Plan: In this section describe who you are trying to reach and how you intend to reach them. List the constituencies you serve. Explain your competition and your potential partners. How will you promote your services and through what materials?

Operational Plan: Where will you be located and how will you deliver services? Explain in detail how you will evaluate your program and its services.

Spend 30 - 40 hours on your Business Plan

Spend 30 – 40 hours on your Business Plan

Management and Organizational Team: Who is on your management team? Provide information about key management staff and their expertise. List the members of your board. Detail their expertise. List financial sponsors. Include an organizational chart. Explain lines of responsibility. Provide an assessment of current and future staffing needs, including how you will use volunteers.

Financial Plan: Determine your current and/or projected financial status, thoroughly explaining sources of income. You will include an income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, and a minimum three-year financial projection.

Smart planning ensures your success

Smart planning ensures your success

If done well, your business plan will not only guide you to answer the IRS Form 1023 questions, it will also act as a document to present to potential major donors and grant-makers. It will help you to recruit board members and community collaborators. If you will need a bridge loan or line of credit, this document will prepare you to meet with a financial institution.

Starting and sustaining a nonprofit is in many ways much more difficult than starting a new business. Dedicate yourself to the business planning stage first, and you’ll find your journey will be a bit lighter.

January 25, 2016

Seven Business Plan Tactics for Social Entrepreneurs

Filed under: Business Planning — MLWagner @ 2:53 pm

By Marcie L. Wagner, CFRE

 Business Plan writing is time-consuming and tricky, yet crucial to ones success in presenting your nonprofit dream. Over the years, my core business has gradually moved from grant writing for startup nonprofits to writing business plans for the same. Frequently, I was approached to write grants for monies required to get started without a business plan present. It was a pleasant surprise to know that there really is no one better prepared to write a business plan for a social entrepreneur than a grant writer.

We are custom to finding the stats and facts to back up a solid idea which resolves some social ill. We are custom to crushing numbers and presenting them in a manner which makes sense and draws realistic support. We are custom to delicately balancing clinical information for a lay-person audience. And finally, we are custom to taking our clients dream and crafting a document which makes readers sit up and take notice. Here are my ten tactics for your successful business plan:

1.  Find a Grant Writer with Business Plan Experience.

You want a writer who will collaborate with you and who has a history of writing business plans. Even better? If you find a grant writer who has a indexhistory of writing business plans, they will also have the knowledge and wherewithal to research funding opportunities and make the initial call to set up a meeting with potential investors.

2.  Are You Sure You Are Solving a Problem?

Before you spend months or years bringing your idea to fruition – make certain your idea is actually solving a problem for your community. To do this you need to talk to community leaders about the “problem”. This will be time well spent given that they will certainly know and understand what the community needs not only for today, but for the future. If they agree with you and feel your idea is a much needed community resource, then you have made your first or another connection which can only help you move your idea forward.

3.  Keep it Visual and Keep Their Attention!

business-planA great way to simplify your business plan, both for yourself and your investors, is to make it more visual. Swap out long paragraphs for a graph or chart. People tend to get hung up on long, drawn out explanations, when a simple comparison table will do.

4.  Be Flexible.

Business plans are a very important starting point and are meant to be followed; but don’t become unhinged  when things don’t go as planned. People tend to get so hung up on what has been put on paper that they lose sight of what reality is telling them. I like to tell clients that a business plan is a living, breathing document – it will change.

5.  Stay Realistic and Conservative.

Dream big, but keep those feet firmly planted in reality. It’s great to have a “stretch” goal for your financial future, but don’t publish it. Put your conservative financial strategy in the business plan – if you under predict and over perform everyone will be delighted.

6.  Are Those Presenting the Plan Involved in Its Writing?

business-2-e1408638106457While you need an expert lead writer in business plan development, don’t take a backseat – instead, host planning meetings with those who will be pitching the plan to funders. Give those planning meeting outcomes to the writer. Your writer will then expertly turn your phrases into a document capable of drawing people in.

7.  Keep the Basics, Sprinkle with Your Unique Flavor.

You will find a variety of business plan formats. Use a format which makes the most sense to you and takes into consideration what questions you need to answer for potential investors. Regardless of your chosen format, you should include these basic topics: Executive Summary, Organization Description, Products and Services, Market Analysis, Management/Key Employee, Governing Structure, Financial Strategy, and Plan Implementation.

Ms. Wagner has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 25 years. She is an expert in finding and securing funding for start-up organizations. You may visit her website and contact her at http:\\www.wagnerfundraising.com.


July 10, 2015

Why Fundraising Consultants Should Commune Not Compete

Filed under: Fundraising — admin @ 5:56 am

By Marcie L. Wagner, CFRE

Recently a fundraising consultant reached out to me for a face-to-face meeting. I gratefully accepted and the outcome of the meeting exceeded my expectations. We shared stories, offered one another affirmation regarding what we have accomplished over our years of working with non profits, and discovered ways in which we could work together to strengthen the services we provide to clients.

social network of African American businesswomanFundraising consultants understand they need to carve out time to market their firm and ensure it can be easily found by those seeking professional fundraising services. But do we spend enough time making sincere and long-term relationships with other fundraising consulting firms? If one makes this a priority, and it is done well, one will have access to a large and diverse portfolio of contacts to help us routinely stay connected to a network which not only offers new business opportunities, enhance the services your offer, but also will be available should you need counsel on any number of areas where another’s professional opinion would be of great benefit.

Social media combined with traditional networking makes it both convenient and cost-free to build a network with other fundraising consultants who are credible, trusting, and have a solid relationship of mutual sharing of information.

Here are four areas to be mindful of when creating strategies for successful relationship-building with your consulting colleagues:

1. Taking But Not Giving

As you connect with peers in consulting, learn about their experience, skills, values, business model, and what types of projects they’re working on and looking for. If you see an opportunity to help someone by making a connection or setting that person up with a project that doesn’t suit you, partner with them or pass the potential client on to them. Your help and thoughtfulness are not likely to be forgotten, and your peers will be more likely to return the favor in the future.

2. Meet Casually, Face-to-Face

fundraising_consultants2Traditionally consultants consider meeting face-to-face at events and an exchange of business cards as successful networking. More recently, connecting and communicating through online social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter are considered time well spent. These are great ways to find your colleagues and make that first connection. But you need to take that next step. A solid relationship is born when you both find the time to get together casually, shake hands and engage in a meaningful conversation.

3. Look Outside Your Traditional Network

Most consultants build their networks around others within their industry. While you’ll certainly want these connections, not expanding your network into other relevant industries could lead to missing out on big opportunities.

fundraising_consultantsTry this: Attend conferences, workshops and networking events focused on broader business topics or on industries related to or similar to yours. For example, reach out to creative agency or social media/IT consultants; you will net several valuable contacts who can expand your consulting network related to services your clients will most likely require.

4. Expecting Immediate Results

One meeting with a consulting colleague requires follow up and brainstorming on how you might work together now or in the future. Similar to building a relationship with a donor, you can’t neglect the relationship-building part of the networking process. Don’t wait until you need something to attempt to forge a relationship. Work on developing your consulting network regularly.

A consulting network is always a work in progress. By following these guidelines, you’ll likely cultivate meaningful connections more quickly and keep them for the long term.

May 19, 2015

The End is Near for Your Fiscal Year: Fundraising Tips, Tactics and Messaging to Implement Today

Filed under: Fundraising,General — admin @ 12:56 am

By Marcie L. Wagner, CFRE

You may be relaxed and comfortably reaching your fundraising goal OR today you’re feeling the heat and realize you need to hustle a bit more in order to get to your goal. the_end_is_near1_newWhatever the scenario, it is always just good business to be as strategic today, as you approach June 30, as you are in racing towards December 31st. So let’s begin some fiscal year-end fundraising chatter.

While it will always be a challenge to grab your donor’s attention in May and June in the same measure as November and December – it is documented that the positive payoff will be well worth your time and perhaps a bit of investment. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, you can expect at least a 20% increase in donations in May and June combined if you implement a fiscal year-end fundraising strategy.

What follows is a tactic and messaging example. When messaging, pay attention to your tone, it should be urgent, timely and specific, not desperate or needy. Be clear that the solicitation is coming to them due to the approaching fiscal year-end and that it is essential to reach out to ensure that your organizations much needed services continue to thrive.

When drafting your message be confident and clear with regard to what you want, why you want it, and when you want it.

Here is an example of an e-appeal used by public radio. You will notice the following:the_end_is_near2

  1. Begins with a bold, but brief case pitch
  2. Clearly states the situation
  3. Asks strongly and directly for the contribution
  4. Builds credibility by pointing out that others have already done their part
  5. Briefly and specifically re-states it all in the P.S. (along with gift amount suggestions.)


Subject: Just one weekDear friend,

What a difference WXYZ can make to your week… with news that keeps you connected… ideas that keep you interested… and conversation that brings you into the heart of the matter.

One week can mean a lot to WXYZ too – particularly this week!

That’s because just one week from today, WXYZ’s budget year ends and our goal right now is to raise $## through this email to finish strong.

If WXYZ has ever made your week, then please stand with our ## amazing supporters as we raise the critical final dollars it will take to help the programs you rely on thrive in the year to come.


You do have the power to make all the difference! Thank you!

Title and proud supporter

P.S. WXYZ’s budget year ends in just one week. Your $50, $100, or $200 contribution will go far in helping to raise the final $## to support the exceptional news that you count on every day. Thank you!

the_end_is_near3_newWhether you’re writing a series of emails, an on-air spot, a fundraising pitch, or a lengthier direct mail letter, these same principles will apply to helping you maximize your fundraising response at fiscal year-end, while also maintaining strong and healthy communications with your donors.

It is worth mentioning again, never, ever use a message or tone that would convey an organizational financial crisis. If you are really sweating it to reach your goal, it is easy to come across as desperate – while it may make you feel better, and it may inspire a handful of “saviors” to take action, the largest result will be questions regarding leadership’s ability to be fiscally responsible and why did they allow the organization to get into such a negative situation. You can see how this message can easily take a donor’s mind to a place you don’t want it to go.

In closing, you all are responsible for organizations that are unique – use fundraising tactics and strategies that make sense for you. Perhaps your donors won’t respond to an e-appeal, but you know from your December year-end that they respond to direct mail with a follow up phone call. The timing of your fundraising appeals may also need to be unique. Perhaps you begin your fiscal year-end solicitations on May 1 in order to be strategic and successful.

March 2, 2015

Four Ways to Turn Volunteers into Donors

Filed under: Fundraising,General — admin @ 12:45 am

By Marcie Wagner, CFRE

ten ways to volunteers img1First some quick stats and facts on volunteer giving. According to The Corporation for National & Community Service, volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers. Nearly eight in 10 (79.2 percent) volunteers donated to charity, compared to four in 10 (40.4 percent) of non-volunteers. Overall, half of all citizens (50.7 percent) donated at least $25 to charity in 2013.
Here are four tips to move your volunteers to donors.

  1. 1. Train Your Volunteers
  2. Treat them as if they are a new staff member. Ensure they are prepared with a training manual and job description. Provide them with a tour and use that time to introduce them to the staff. They should have a place and the tools to conduct their work and it should be clean, even if small. Make certain they are aware of who they report to, that they meet that person and review the job description, set dates and times of volunteering and cover any questions the volunteer may have. It is important that the volunteer supervisor is accessible to them while they are volunteering. Include a backup person in the event the supervisor is not available. Give them the logistics of when to arrive, where to park, check in, track their hours, get coffee, how long their shift is, what to do if they haven’t finished the job at the end of their shift. Be organized and available to them so they feel welcome, competent and impressed with the time you have taken to ensure their experience is a good one.
  3. ten ways to volunteers img2
  4. 2.Recognize Your Volunteers
  5. Volunteers should have a name tag so it is easy for staff to identify them and acknowledge them as they pass by. During staff meetings make a point of impressing upon staff the importance of saying “hi” to volunteers, perhaps chat with them and ask how they are doing, invite them for coffee or lunch with them. As they leave their shift they should be thank for their time. For volunteers who have made a long-term commitment; acknowledge them in your newsletter, Facebook, website or annual report.
  6. ten ways to volunteers img3
  7. 3. Write a note of Thanks to Your Volunteers
  8. Similar to donors, send your volunteers a short thank you note. Thank them this way early and more than once as appropriate.

  10. 4. Ask for a donation
  11. ten ways to volunteers img4
  12. Throughout their volunteer experience, they should be educated on the organizations broader work, not just the work they may be focused on. As you approach the ask, acknowledge the value of their volunteer work and how it is fiscally valuable, yet make a clear case for the need of individual donations in order to fulfill your mission. Focus the ask on programs and services, not general operating. Make the ask personal, face to face and come prepared with a donor packet and gift envelope, allowing them time to think over the level of their financial contribution.

December 4, 2014

Four Fundraising Resolutions for 2015

Filed under: Fundraising,General — admin @ 7:29 am

By Marcie Wagner, CFRE

  • Donation Optimization


Eliminate any links on your landing page that visitors can use to leave your website. Instead offer a clear and SECURE call to action which conveys a sense of urgency and an incentive if they give online. Offer donation giving levels, a link to your privacy policy and again include 3rd party secure giving validation. Finally, make certain your landing page is optimized for mobile. Infographic by johnhayden.com

  • Incorporate Mobile Giving

fundraising_image2Mobile donations are the best way to give to charity because of convenience, security and cost savings. Since so many people use their smartphones and tablets to surf the Web, you can no longer think of online giving as something that people do from a desktop computer. If you have mobile fundraising systems in place, this awareness can translate to an immediate gift. Not only is mobile the most convenient and secure way to give to charity, but it’s also the most affordable for organizations. Mobile giving typically has lower processing costs compared to others. It’s very effective as well, text message marketing campaigns are effective because it has a high open rate, often within a few minutes of receiving a message.

  • Ask Donors to “Give Up” Something for 30-40 days

Create a campaign around asking your donors to give up something for thirty or forty days. It could be coffee, soda, chocolate… and instead make a gift to your organization equal to what they have saved.
Infographic from classy.org

  • Create a Crowdfunding Campaign

Pick your most compelling program or a program that could do so much more (serve so many more people) given the funds were available and create a crowdfunding campaign. Kickstarter isn’t just for new projects anymore.

November 12, 2014

Board Member Tips to Managing Staffing Issues

Filed under: Fundraising,General — admin @ 12:18 am

By Marcie Wagner, CFRE
With information cited from Jan Masaoka


The role of the board of directors in personnel administration should be clearly defined for nonprofits in order to limit potential conflict with your Executive Director. Some questions to ask of your board include: should the board approve all salaries, or just the executive director’s? If a staff member has a grievance, at what point can they come to the board? How can the board’s finance committee members, for example, be helpful in hiring accounting staff, but not undermine the hiring role of staff? How can a board member appropriately give feedback to the executive director on the behavior of a staff person given the assumption the board feels swift action must be taken?

Board teams tend to be hands on or hands off. For example, it’s common that some desire to be in the loop with regard to staff compensation, while others would be upset if they were involved in any administrative staffing issue – even compensation. This blog will present to you targeted guidelines specific to board roles without stepping on the toes of the ED’s authority.
img 2

Guidelines for the Board’s Role in Non Profit Human Resource’s

1. Committee(s): The board establishes a board-staff sub-committee that works with matters related to human resources. This committee makes recommendations to the board for approval (rather than bringing matters to the board).
2. Personnel Policies: The executive director is responsible for ensuring that personnel policies and procedures are disseminated and implemented, and that the policies are reviewed as appropriate by the board. Individual members of the human resources committee may be able to bring their human resources expertise to make suggestions; every two years, the human resources committee reviews the policies with staff and, if appropriate, drafts changes.
3. Salary scales: The board Finance sub-committee working with the HR sub-committee should draft salary ranges for each position. This ensures that the board has considered the strategic matters related to salaries as they relate to organizations budget capacity. The salary schedule is sent by Finance committee to the whole board for approval. In this way, the executive staff are still responsible for salaries, but the range of salaries is one approved by the board.
4. Hiring: In some cases, at the request of the executive director, one or two board members may help during the interview process, particularly if you have an HR executive on the board. However, it should be clear to all involved that the final decision is made by the staff person to whom the new hire would report. In these situations individual board members are acting as advisors to staff.
5. Layoffs: A management decision to lay off staff usually reflects a financial situation that should already have been shared with the board. In this context, the steps that management is taking to deal with that financial situation — whether layoffs, paycuts, new income strategies, or others — should be discussed with the board and the board should bless or put a hold on management actions. Although in most staffed organizations the decision of who to laid off and when and how are management decisions, it’s critical for the board and management to be in sync about how the organization is responding to financial problems.
6. Grievances: Grievances on the part of employees must first go through the written procedures outlined in the employee policies manual. If an individual has exhausted the grievance process and that process has been documented, individual employees may be permitted (if it is so written in the policies) to raise a grievance to either the board chair or the board’s human resources committee, which then acts as the final arbiter. This may be especially appropriate where the complaining employee reports to the executive director and has an unresolved complaint about the executive director.
7. Serious charges about the organization’s management: Sometimes a staff member has a serious charge against management, such as the illegal or improper use of funds, sexual harassment, discriminatory behavior, or improper accounting methods that cannot be taken up in the grievance process. To provide an outlet for such matters (other than a complaint to the state attorney general), some organizations allow staff members to raise such concerns with the board chair. When other board members hear such complaints, they have a responsibility to direct the staff person to the board chair. By making the board chair the sole recipient of such charges, the board can prevent a disgruntled staff member from trying to develop allies on the board against the executive staff, and can provide a way to bring an organizational matter to the attention of the board as a whole.
Delegating Personnel Work
The board can choose how to delegate personnel-related work. The most common choices are:
• a standing (permanent) human resources committee,
• a human resources task force (that is, a temporary committee),
• a board-staff standing committee, or a
• board-staff task force.
Committee members might include the staff human resources director (if there is one) or executive director, and/or non-board volunteers such as a human resources attorney. (Note that if non-board individuals are members of the committee, either they should be as non-voting advisory members of the committee, or the committee’s recommendations should come back to the board for approval.) In some cases, the human resources committee is also responsible for developing plans and strategies for appropriate recruitment and utilization of volunteers, while in other organizations the human resources committee looks only at paid personnel.
Each organization will want to choose its own guidelines on these sensitive and important issues. Striking the right balance between board and ED authority may initially be challenging, but it’s far from impossible. In the end, sorting this out will strengthen your organization while making life easier for board members and staff.

September 30, 2014

Why Your Year-End Ask Should Last 12 Months

Filed under: Fundraising,General — admin @ 1:14 am

by Lincoln Arneal

Don’t let the name fool you, the end-of-year ask fundraiser for nonprofits is not about the end of the year.

For an end-of-year campaign to be successful, it cannot be done during the final few months of the year. Instead, an effective end-of-year ask extends beyond one letter and incorporates multiple touch points with potential donors.

image1We talked to multiple nonprofit professionals, and they all agreed that the year-end ask was about relationship building and connecting with existing and potential donors on a personal level.

Jerry Krueger is the vice president of branding/operations for Alpha Dog Marketing, a firm that coordinates fundraising campaigns, newsletters and mailing for nonprofits across the country. He said they also work the end-of-year campaign into traditional advertising, which will curtail into the entire year.

Krueger said the year-end ask should be just one part of a nonprofit’s fundraising plan.

“The year-end is critical, but it’s really about the whole year. You need to have a comprehensive plan and multiple asks,” Krueger said. “If all you have is the end-of-year ask, then you will struggle.”

Heather Stulken, the donor relations manager at Great Plains Food Bank, which serves North Dakota, said the end of the year was important because they conducted 60% of the mailings during the last four months of the year.

image2Their direct mail campaigns are divided into three seasons. They send out four mail pieces during the spring, two during the summer and nine in the fall. Stulken said direct mail might seem inefficient for fundraising because of how easily recipients could discard letters, but they’ve added two more mailings in the past few years based on the success they’ve had.

Stulken said they work with a California-based vendor,Russ Reid, to send out their mailings. Even though she doesn’t directly oversee the production of the mailers, Stulken watches the results and looks for trends from previous years.

image3According to their financial reports for 2012, the methods have been quite successful, as two-thirds of Great Plains Food Bank’s overall revenue came from donations.

“Because of where our time and energy is allocated, the best use of my time is not writing letters,” Stulken said. “The best use of my time is visiting donors. So we let this company do the mailings and they seem to be working great. It’s work that we are not capable of doing in-house to the extent that they are doing and be very smart about it.”

Both Stulken and Krueger said they heavily segmented their databases to send different mailings to new potential donors, and then to current donors based on giving levels and number of gifts. Each receives a different mailing, with slightly different content and a different layout and feel.

Stulken and Krueger said one of the most successful mailings were cards that have the appearance of being handwritten, but in fact, are not. Stulken said they updated their lists frequently. She image4said, for example, if someone made a donation by November 15, in the next mailing, they would receive a request asking for a second donation.

When the outside company completes the mailings, Stulken’s work really begins. After the initial donation, she follows up with every donor who gives at least $250 with a phone call or an in-person visit, depending on the amount and availability of the donor. Her goal is to convert these people from one-time givers into monthly donors.

“The personal touches, like phone calls and visits, are extremely impactful,” Stulken said. “I’ve seen quickly how they turn into major donors very quickly after we stop by their house.”

September 15, 2014

Must Haves for a Winning Grant Proposal

Filed under: Fundraising — admin @ 11:34 pm

Contributed by Simon Peyton Jones, Alan Bundy and Marcie Wagner

grant_proposalWriting a winning grant proposal doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, most on-line grant applications are straight forward and allow an open dialogue with the funding organization if you have questions regarding the proposal.

  1. The most substantial part of any grant application is your “Case for Support” or “Statement of Need”. It is this case which will persuade the funder of the value of your proposal. You can improve your “Statement of Need” enormously simply by ruthlessly writing and rewriting, and getting a third parties opinion and feedback. Further, remember that funders and panel members see tens or hundreds of cases for support, so you have one minute or less to grab your reader’s attention.
  2. Ask others to help you improve your proposal. grant_proposal2Give it to your colleagues, your friends, your spouse and listen to what they say. If they misunderstand what you were trying to say, don’t say “you misunderstood me”; instead rewrite it so it can’t be misunderstood. If they don’t immediately see the value of what you want to achieve, rewrite it until they do.This isn’t a big demand to make on someone. Ask them to read your proposal for 10 minutes. Remember, most panel members will give it less time than that.
  3. Make sure that the first page acts as a stand-alone summary of the entire proposal. Assume that most readers will get no further than the first page. So don’t fill it up with boilerplate about the technical background. Instead, present your whole case: what you want to do, why it’s important, why you will succeed, how much it will cost, and so on.
  4. Along with the “Case for Support”, here are the major criteria against which your proposal will be judged. Read through your case for support repeatedly, and ask whether the answers to the questions below are clear, even to a non-expert.
    • Does the proposal address a well-formulated problem?
    • Is it an important problem, whose solution will have useful effects?
    • Is special funding necessary to solve the problem, or to solve it quickly enough, or could it be solved using the normal resource.
    • Do the proposers have a good idea on which to base their work? The proposal must explain the idea in sufficient detail to convince the reader that the idea has some substance, and should explain why there is reason to believe that it is indeed a good idea. It is absolutely not enough merely to identify a wish-list of desirable goals (a very common fault). There must be significant technical substance to the proposal.
    • Does the proposal explain clearly what work will be done? Does it explain what results are expected and how they will be evaluated? How would it be possible to judge whether the work was successful?
    • Is there evidence that the proposers know about the work that others have done on the problem? This evidence may take the form of a short review as well as representative references.
    • Do the proposers have a good track record, both of doing good research and of publishing it? A representative selection of relevant publications by the proposers should be cited. Absence of a track record is clearly not a disqualifying characteristic, especially in the case of young researchers, but a consistent failure to publish raises question marks.
  5. The grant writer must ensure that his or her budget is to be used in a cost-effective manner. grant_proposal3Each proposal which has some chance of being funded is examined, and the panel may lop costs off an apparently over-expensive project. Such cost reduction is likely to happen if the major costs of staff and equipment are not given clear, individual justification.

  7. Here are some of the ways in which proposals often fail to meet these criteria.
  • It is not clear what question is being addressed by the proposal. In particular, it is not clear what the outcome of the project might be,grant_proposal4 or what would constitute success or failure. It is vital to discuss what contribution would be made by the project.
  • The question being addressed is woolly or ill-formed. The committee are looking for evidence of clear thinking both in the formulation of the problem and in the planned attack on it.
  • There is no evidence that the proposers will succeed where others have failed. It is easy enough to write a proposal with an exciting-sounding wish-list of hoped-for achievements, but you must substantiate your goals with solid evidence of why you have a good chance of achieving them.

This evidence generally takes two main forms:

  • “We have an idea”. In this case, you should sketch the idea, and describe preliminary work you have done which shows that it is indeed a good idea. You are unlikely to get funding without such evidence. It is not good saying “give us the money and we will start thinking about this problem”.
  • “We have a good track record”. Include a selective list of publications, and perhaps include a short paper (preferably a published one) which gives more background, as an appendix. If you make it clear that it is an appendix, you won’t usually fall foul of any length limits.
  • The writer seems unaware of related research. Related work must be mentioned, if only to be dismissed. The case for support should have a list of references like any paper, and you should look at it to check it has a balanced feel – your panel will do so. Do not make the mistake of giving references only to your own work.
  • The proposed project has already been done – or appears to have been done. Rival solutions must be discussed and their inadequacies revealed.
  • The proposal is badly presented, or incomprehensible to all but an expert in the field. grant_proposal5Remember that your proposal will be read by non-experts as well as (hopefully) experts. A good proposal is simultaneously comprehensible to non-experts, while also convincing experts that you know your subject. Keep highly-technical material in well-signposted section(s); avoid it in the introduction.
  • The writer seems to be attempting too much for the funding requested and time-scale envisaged. Such lack of realism may reflect a poor understanding of the problem or poor research methodology.
  • The proposal is too expensive for the probable gain. If it is easy to see how to cut the request for people/equipment/travel, etc. to something more reasonable then it might be awarded in reduced form. More likely, it will be rejected.

We hope that this blog will help you to write better grant proposals, and hence to be more successful in obtaining funds through grants. This is not just about writing better grant proposals to obtain more money. It compels grant writers to regularly review and re-justify the direction of the work. Behind poorly presented grant proposals often lie poorly-reasoned project plans.

August 12, 2014

Twenty Ways to Increase Website Traffic Via Your Blog

Filed under: Fundraising — admin @ 11:37 pm

Contributed by Jayson DeMers
This blog pulls from an article written by Jayson DeMers which neatly offers non profits 20 ways to attract website traffic through your blog. Some of the below listed tactics shouldn’t be considered an immediate fix, yet you will be surprised at how swiftly they just may begin to increase your website visitor numbers. Block off a couple of hours and give it a go!

  1. Submit your blog posts to StumbleUpon.
  2. Promote your blog posts to your email list – Placing a link to your blog on your signature can considerably increase website traffic.
  3. Work on your headlines – Your headlines are what will get people in the door, particularly when you share your blog posts via social media; make sure they pique interest and clearly articulate the benefit to your readers. For help with that, see “The Online Marketer’s Guide to Writing High-Converting Headlines.”
  4. Join a blogging community like ProBlogger or CopyBlogger – This is a great way to network with other bloggers, and to cross-promote each other’s content.
  5. Include links to other relevant posts on your blog – When you write a post, always be sure to mention other posts your readers may find helpful; this is great for SEO as well as for increasing time-on-site, conversion rates, and referral traffic.
  6. Guest post on relevant blogs – There’s not much point guest blogging on a site in an unrelated niche; make sure you only contribute to highly-relevant, high-quality sites in your niche. See “The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.”
  7. Post more frequently – Neil Patel of QuickSprout found that by posting high-quality posts 6x per week (as opposed to 5), blog traffic increased by 18.6%. Find your magic number and commit to seeing it through. Remember that in many cases, the traffic increases you see from blogging are scalable.
  8. Submit your posts to Reddit.
  9. Build connections with others in your niche – I know this sounds cliche, but building personal relationships with other bloggers in your niche will often result in organic inbound links and referral traffic to your site.
  10. Select the top 10 blogs in your niche – write a post about them.
  11. Add text to your blog post images – Try including your post title and URL in your blog post images for optimal effect when pinned or shared.
  12. Connect with bloggers who are already sending you traffic – If someone has already linked to your site, they obviously like what you have to say. Contact them to see if there are other ways they could help promote your content (and vice versa).
  13. Ask a well-known blogger to guest post on your site – They’ll likely share the post with their audience, driving traffic to your site.
  14. Respond to blog comments – Respond thoughtfully to all comments on your blog. This is great for building relationships, as well as for driving commenters back to your site.
  15. Add your blog to Alltop – As an aggregate for all kinds of web content, submitting your blog increases your chances of getting found by people looking for content in your niche.
  16. Comment on industry blogs – Become a regular commenter on a popular blog in your niche to help drive referral traffic and to establish relationships with other bloggers.
  17. Share your blog posts regularly on Facebook – Post a short excerpt from your posts to entice readers to click through.
  18. Share your posts on Triberr – Meet other bloggers and share each other’s content.
  19. Add your blog to Technorati – As the world’s largest blog directory, claiming your blog should be standard procedure for all bloggers.
  20. Join We on Tech for free – if you blog once a month or less, if you blog more, join for a reasonable monthly fee. We on Tech is the newest alternative to Only Wire, which will submit your blog to multiple social bookmarking sites with the click of a button. These sites include the above listed Stumble Upon, Reddit, Alltop, Technorati and of course Facebook, Twitter and the like.

June 12, 2014

How to set up a Twitter account in five simple steps

Filed under: General — admin @ 2:49 am

In the first part of our social media how-to series, we demonstrated how easy it was to set up Facebook page for your non profit. Here, we’ll show you how to use Twitter to reach out to your customers and get your company’s name out there without having to spend big bucks on conventional advertising.

Step 1
image11First, you’ll need to setup a Twitter account. Go to www.twitter.com, and enter your full name, email address and the password you want to use for your account. Twitter will automatically suggest a username for you based on your first name and surname, but you should change this to the name of your non profit. If that name is taken already, try variations on it such as putting a “1” at the end of it. When you find a username that isn’t taken, click the ‘Create my account’ button.

Step 2
The next step is to find people to ‘follow’. The key here is building up a list of people whose posts you will find interesting. For a non profit Twitter account, a good place to start is people that are influential in your industry. Twitter will suggest some people for you to follow on the next screen, and you can get an idea of whether they’re relevant to your industry by the short biography listed underneath each Twitter handle. Don’t worry if you follow the wrong people – you can easily ‘unfollow’ them later.

Step 3
On the next screen, you’ll be able to find Twitter users by name or topic. From here, you can look up thought leaders and prominent executives in your field,and also
image12browse through categories to find people relevant to your industry. The final step in the setup process is searching through your existing contact databases to find friends and colleagues that use Twitter. You can look through your Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and LinkedIn contacts.

Step 4
image13Now you can get to setting up your Twitter profile. From the main Twitter screen, you’ll see a ‘Set up your profile’ section on the right-hand panel.From here, you can upload a profile picture (typically your non profit logo) and write a short bio. The bio is important, as it’s what people will use to determine whether they should follow you. Something along the lines of “This is the official Twitter account of [non profit name]” should suffice.

Step 5
And now for the fun stuff – writing posts! Posts are limited to 140 characters, so you’ll need to be brief with your message. The aim isn’t to ‘spam’ your followers with information about your services, although this may be of interest depending on your particular industry. If your mission is to offer educational scholarships, for instance, posting to Twitter about any new scholarships available or deadlines would be appropriate. image14But you’ll also want to engage with people that mention your non profit name and post information related to your industry that your followers will find interesting. You can use free third party Twitter services like HootSuite (www.hootsuite.com) to get alerted whenever someone mentions your non profit name.

February 25, 2014

A Quick Guide to Building and Using Your Non Profit Facebook Page

Filed under: General — admin @ 2:56 am

The first of a series of blogs – upcoming blogs include: How to Set Up and Use A Twitter Account and Blog to Drive Traffic to Your Website

By Marcie L. Wagner, CFRE

A free service offered by Facebook; you can not only promote yourself (as most do), it is increasing essential to promote you nonprofit in order to share your stories, photos attached to freeservice1those stories or photos of your events. A Facebook page for your organization gain you “fans” rather than “friends” through the “like” button. Similar to a personal Facebook page, you want to continually update it with organization information, status updates, links to related issues, photos and videos. Make sure to encourage your followers or “fans” to like and share your stories and photos.

Why spend you limited time creating and updating you Facebook page? First, it is the most widely used social media network platform with over 500 million people actively using it each MONTH. Further, over 50% of these users log on during any given DAY. You must begin now to take advantage of this mass community.

In July of last year, James Parsons kindly walked audiences through how to set up your facebook page which I will share for you here.

How to build a Facebook page for your non-profit organization?

1.    Define your organization. This may sound obvious, but still, you should plan and know very carefully what the Page is all about: the organization’s story, mission, and its audience. Establish and program your Page with that in mind.

2.    Create the Page. At this point, you’ll be doing the ‘computer’ aspect of your journey to social goodness.

3.    Visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php

Just a reminder, IF you have a personal account, you should be logged in to that personal account before you can create the Page. This account will be used as the Page’s administrator. Facebook doesn’t allow users to create a Page without it linking to a personal account. Pages are not separate Facebook accounts and do not have separate login information from your timeline. They are just different entities on their site, similar to how Groups and Events function. You may add other administrators later on to help you manage a Page. But don’t worry, people who choose to like your Page won’t be able to see that you are the Page admin or have ANY access to your personal timeline

4.   At the ‘Create a Page’ site, select the category “Company, Organization or                  Institution”.
5.   Choose from the drop-down list the category “Non-Profit Organization”.
6.   Type the name of the organization. Be sure to select a name that will represent          your organization in the long term.
7.   Check the “I agree to Facebook Pages Terms”
8.   Finally, click the “Get Started” button.
9.   Next, you’ll be redirected to the Set Up section, where you’ll be asked to fill in             details for your Page.

  1. About


 Keep your organizations brand in mind. Your page and the questions that follow should all reflect the same branding as your organizations website and materials. “About” your organization you will write a brief description of your organization. I recommend you state your mission. You will add your website, Twitter, Blog links and any other links to the social media that you are currently using. If you are not using any, stay posted to my subsequent blogs which will cover these additional opportunities.  Please understand that Facebook  isn’t limited to only one site, and I recommend using as many websites as possible for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes. Just click “Add Another Site”, and you can key in all the necessary additional sites your organization is linked to – you may also go back and update this information as you expand your online presence. Before clicking “Save Info”, answer the question “Is ‘name of your organization’ a real organization, school or government?”

Profile Picture

I recommend you use your organizations logo and adhere to their size requirements so your logo fits their window and doesn’t end up looking fuzzy, stretched out, cut off etc. They make it easy, you simply upload a picture from your computer. Or go to your website, right click on your logo, click “save as” and save it to your desktop so you can easily find it when you upload the picture from your computer. You can skip this step, if you haven’t decided a logo yet, but I would rather recommend that you place a photo that depicts your brand until you do have your logo in place. You can change this picture at any time.

Facebook Web Address
Choose a unique Facebook web address to make it easier for people to find your Page. Facebook usually suggests a name, but you can also choose your own. Consider first using the name of your organization, if that is taken, it should be similar, perhaps you don’t use all the words of the name of your organization. Once this is set, it CAN’T BE CHANGED. If you aren’t sure what to write, you can skip this step and come back to it later.

Reach more people
This is the part where you’ll be asked if you would want to advertise on Facebook. It is quite a good deal if you are a membership organization, especially to a newly published Page. With this, you can raise awareness about your organization and get more people to like your Page. The downside is it’s not free. If you’re interested, there are three payment methods to choose from (i.e. Credit/Debit Card, PayPal, and Direct Debit). Or, again, you can skip this step and come back later if you change your mind. You can also stop advertising at any time as well.

Add to Favorites

If you have have a personal profile page, this section will help you to add your Page to your ‘Favorites’ section of your personal profile for easy access anytime and don’t forget to become your pages first ‘fan’, you can also send a message to all of your contacts to become a fan of your page. Make certain to do this, depending on how many friends you have, you can already build a healthy audience and it looks very good to new visitors to you nonprofit page.

Administration Panel

Familiarize yourself with the Admin Panel. At the top of your Page’s timeline, you can see the admin panel. Poke around all of the different settings found at the “Edit Page” button.freeservice3Select”Edit Settings” and you’ll be redirected in the “Manage Permissions” page. You can change some of these, if not all, to your desired choice.

Add another Administrator, perhaps this is the staff person or volunteer who is familiar with facebook and will to keep it updated regularly. That option can be found in the “Settings” page. Look for the “Admin Roles” option and there you can add admins with different roles. They can be a manager (they have access to all editing options), a content creator (can’t manage admin roles), a moderator (can respond to and delete comments on the Page, send messages as the Page, create ads, and view insights), an advertiser (can create ads and view insights), and finally, an insights analyst (can only view insights). There is no limit to the number of admins a Page can have.

When we’re talking about organizations in Facebook Pages especially non-profits, always remember: Photos and videos are everything. These multimedia contents are much more compelling than status updates. They are more engaging, especially if the video or photo is linked to your website – this way your facebook page is driving traffic to your website or website donation page or event sign up page – you can link them wherever you would like.

Add an appealing Cover Photo.

Facebook now has the large Cover Banner. Here, you can upload a photo that will serve as your Page’s promotional banner. Choose a photo for this one, grab a picture of an event, or of your clients. Again remember to pay attention to their dimensions so the photo is not fuzzy, too large or too small.

Share your content.

Post your first status. Talk in the first person, it’s more personal and authentic. Create a two-way dialogue with your fans and supporters. Share exclusive photos and videos that will engage your audience. The more you post, the more people you’ll attract and the faster you’ll grow your Page’s followers. Build the community you envisioned. Good luck!


January 29, 2014

22 Crowdfunding Sites (and How To Choose Yours!)

Filed under: General — admin @ 1:28 am

BY Eric Markowitz


It’s not just Kickstarter anymore. Here’s a road map. Crowdfunding used to be pretty simple. Artists, inventors, and filmmakers posted their ideas, and funders chipped in a few bucks to make something happen. Kickstarter, the site that triggered the crowdfunding movement, was the cornerstone. In three years, the site has helped launch more than 95,000 projects.

Today, there are scores of crowdfunding sites. Indiegogo, Bolstr, Fundable–the list goes on. With the SEC poised to allow projects to offer equity, crowdfunding has the potential to revolutionize how entrepreneurs raise money. (For now, you have to offer some kind of reward in exchange for donations.)

But all sites are not created equal. Some specialize in nonprofits, or in certain types of products; others offer consulting services in addition to sourcing funding. In an increasingly crowded and complicated marketplace, where should you turn to fund your endeavor? Follow our map.

From the June 2013 issue of Inc. magazin



Click here to view the 22 crowdfunding sites and determine which best fits your special project

November 11, 2013

Year-end Fundraising in a Snap: 5 No-Brainer tactics to implement by December 31

Filed under: General — admin @ 12:57 am

By Marcie L. Wagner, CFRE

img 1

1. Year-end visits or phone calls

Visit or call your top 2013 donors and your top LYBUNTS and ask for a year-end gift; however you define “major donors” for your organization. A smaller nonprofit may consider a one-time gift of $100 a top donor; others define a top gift as $5,000. If your list is too big to manage, bring in your board members to assist with the calls.

img 2

2. Prepare and send two year-end, “story-telling” appeal letters – double-down by integrating your year-end appeal through all social media avenues

Send your first appeal letter prior to Thanksgiving; send the final letter the last week of December. Next, over the course of November and December, send the same appeal to all your social media venues: a Constant Contact year-end newsletter, e-blast, Facebook, twitter, YouTube and most importantly, the landing page of your website. Repeat your message, theme, brand and “ask” in order to get the biggest bang for your buck. Given you are not recreating the wheel for each social media solicitation; you can accomplish it in a “snap”!

3. If possible, host an open house
Everyone is busy during the holidays with family and friend’s gathering to spread some holiday cheer – please don’t forget, your top donors are your closest friends too. They wouldn’t invest in your organization if they didn’t care greatly about the success of your mission. Time the open house over lunch or a brunch so you avoid the end of year holiday crush of parties.

img 3

4. Send out your 2013 accomplishments
Don’t wait until January to “toot your own horn”, send out your 2013 accomplishments to grant funders and, yes, your top donors and social media outlets.


img 4


5. Personalize, Personalize and Personalize

Again, when possible (and it most often is), personalize your donor appeal by addressing everyone through every medium by their name. Even better, add a live signature and personal note. What will put you over the top? Use first class postage and a postage paid envelope. When utilizing social media for your year-end message, personalize and then have that donate now button stand out big and early in the “ask”. Finally, say thank you no matter the outcome.

September 9, 2013

How to Create a Dynamic Strategy for Every Single Donor: A Step-by-Step Process

Filed under: General — admin @ 1:01 am

By Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels


The look on her face said it all.  “You want me to create a strategy for every single one of the donors on my caseload?  Are you kidding me?”

This is usually the reaction our team at Veritus Group gets when we tell MGOs that this will be one of the first things they need to do if they want to become successful with us.

After the initial shock wears off and denial turns to acceptance, we get to work.  We don’t skirt the enormity of the task.  It is HARD work.  We realize that.  I mean, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.  But they are not.  And this is one of the reasons that MGOs, and ultimately non-profits, struggle with their major gift programs… they don’t have a plan.

Today, I’m going to go over a step-by-step process on how to put together a strategic plan for each donor.  This is the same process we use with our clients to help them overcome what they think is insurmountable.

Once MGOs start working on this process, they realize that not only is it possible, but it’s necessary for them to stay on task and become successful.
Before outlining the steps, I’m going to make three very big assumptions:  1) that you have qualified the donors on your caseload, 2) that you have a revenue goal and have cash flowed those goals by the month you think that revenue is coming in, and 3) that you have your donors tiered A, B and C levels.  Now, a note about tiering: the higher you tier the donor, the more personal the strategy.  Just keep that in mind as you work on strategies for each donor.

So, where do you create your strategy so it’s useful to you?  Good question.  We, at Veritus Group like to first see if the client’s donor database or moves management system has the ability to enter goals and strategy.  This would be the best place.  However, many non-profits either don’t have a good system for this, or they have nothing at all.
This is why we have created the Marketing Impact Chart.  It’s a simple Excel spreadsheet that, when you picture it, has all of the donors on the left-hand column, one by one, and all of the months of the year in a row at the top of the spreadsheet, starting with the first month of the fiscal year.  We can send you a sample template for you to use – click here to request it.

Now, here is the process you should follow in order:

  1. Write in all the mass communication pieces throughout the year-Take a look at your mail schedule: appeals, newsletters, annual reports, etc. Plug those into the months they are scheduled to drop. For “A” level donors you are going to want to create personal notes with some of these, so be aware of that when you figure out your weekly schedule. You can easily copy and paste this into your spreadsheet for every one of your donors.
  2. Review the month each donor’s revenue is expected to come in-then work three months backwards. For example, if you know that you are projecting revenue for Mrs. Smith in November, you need to put the high-level strategy starting three months prior to set up that solicitation. So, in August, you are starting to set up the meeting for November, then in September, sending a report on what her last gift did, and finally in October you send a formal proposal or prospectus to set up your face to face ask in November. Make sense?
  3. At least quarterly send “you made a difference” (YMAD) pieces to everyone on your caseload – plug those in for every donor. Your “A” and “B” level donors could be monthly touches that are highly personalized by you.
  4. Twice a year you want to report on specific programs your donors are funding with a report from the field – Those will be sent at different times depending on when donors gave their gifts. Populate your plan accordingly.
  5. Bi-yearly thank you calls – These are calls you make in addition to thanking any donor on your caseload file who gave a gift. Randomly thanking donors during the course of the year will endear them to your organization. You may consider up to four of these for “A” and “B” level donors.
  6. Bi-yearly “I know you” communications – These are notes or e-mail links or even cut-out magazine or newspaper articles your donors have an interest in. Especially for your “A” level donors, this is something to let them know YOU know them and are taking the time to recognize that.
  7. Cultivation face-to-face visits – Not every face-to-face visit should involve a solicitation. Some visits are meant to report back to donors how they made a difference and/or find out their passions and interests so you can get to know these good people and develop a relationship with them.
  8. Event invites and donor-view trips to see your programs in action – You should consider at least once per year inviting your caseload donor to see your programs in action. It could mean inviting them to your location just minutes from them or taking them to Uganda to see a water project they helped fund. This is a great cultivation and reporting back tool.

Okay, these are the main overall strategies that you need to create over a 12-month period for your caseload. Once you have these loaded into your system or spreadsheet, you’ll have moves associated with each strategy. If you are smart (and I know you are), you will enter those tactics or moves into either your moves management system OR simply into your calendar.

This will automatically give you your “to-do’s” for each day you come into the office. For example, a few moves that come from a strategy would look something like this: Let’s say in February you are going to send a bi-yearly project report to one of your donors. Okay, so one move would be to alert the program team in December to start putting together that report. Another move would be to let your communications team know that they have to create the piece from the information that program gives them, etc., etc.

Or, if you are a one-person shop, they would all be reminders to yourself that you need to get this completed in order for you to get it out in February. All these moves should be entered into either your moves-management system (like Salesforce, for instance) or your own calendar.

So, you still may be asking yourself, “Is this worth it?” My answer is a resounding, “YES!!” In almost every case where MGOs initially complain to us about having to go through this process, they come back and tell us this is the greatest tool for them to stay on track and ultimately be successful.

And actually, those who still complain about it don’t last very long as MGOs. This is a fact.

The beauty of this process is that YOU can start it right now. It’s doesn’t matter where you are in the year. Get going on it. It will be the best tool you have ever created for yourself.

August 18, 2013

The Best Places to Find New Grant Opportunities Online

Filed under: General — admin @ 11:10 pm

By Sumac Research

Introducing… Prospect Research

img 1

Here are a few of the things you’ll learn about institutional donors through prospect research:

  • Does this institution give to non-profits that do what you do?
  • How much money does this funder usually give?
  • Does this funder give in your geographic area?
  • What does this funder expect of your organization in terms of personnel, size and type of project, level of evaluation, financial                          management and reporting?
  • What are the funder’s guidelines?
  • Who have they supported in the past, and at what giving level?
  • Who do you know (on your board or in your member base) who has contacts with this funder?

Anyone can conduct prospect research, though of course it requires an ability to dig into guidelines, explore the internet, and ask questions. Sometimes, professional prospect researchers are hired, who have access to a wide range of resources and databases. More often, fundraising staff include prospect research among their duties. In some non-profits, volunteers and interns do prospect research.

Prospect Research Online

Grant information is largely available online, and in some cases you can find all the information you need on free websites. Bear in mind, though, that you will almost certainly have to
img 2follow up a simple online search with more in-depth digging. Possible ways to supplement your free-site research include a call to the prospective funder to gather more information and request an annual report; a search of the funder’s tax records to see where the money went; or a Google search of the funder’s name to find out how they think about themselves.

There are few really useful, free online sources. Some, however, are literally worth their weight in gold.

Subscription-based databases provide much more in-depth information about grant making institutions. If you expect to do significant amounts of prospect research, you should certainly consider sources like the Foundation Center which will provide you with a wealth of online detail about each prospect in their extensive database. Most online grant databases require a subscription fee. Some of the top databases include:

As you review the guidelines for each grant prospect, you’ll want to review their limitations, giving procedures and deadlines.img 3Often, a foundation that looks like an ideal prospect at first glance turns out to give only in six states – and not in yours. It may also be that a funder is ideal for your organization, but that its deadline for grant submission has already passed.

Once you’ve eliminated prospects that are clearly wrong for your organization, you’ll want to carefully review guidelines to be certain you’re truly eligible for a grant. For example, you’ll want to double-check that the foundation’s grant making limitations don’t apply to you: if you have a religious focus, for example, you should be very careful about reading the guidelines. You’ll also want to be sure that you have all the documentation required; for example, some foundations ask for audited financials; others need to see proof of non-profit status.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to be sure you can describe your project in enough detail to be credible to this prospective funder. You can find help with this in Top 10 Tips for Writing Grant Proposals. Often, funders want to see expert advisors involved a full evaluation plan, or other rather technical elements. If you don’t have these in place, this donor may not be a good prospect for you.

*This article was condensed and brought to you from Sumac Research. For the full article go to: http://sumac.com/the-best-places-to-find-new-grant-opportunities-online

July 27, 2013

How to find, charm, and keep corporate sponsors

Filed under: Fundraising — admin @ 1:12 am

by Rebeca MojicaJob-Summit-2013-Sponsor-Graphic-356x400

Corporate sponsors seem to be everywhere in today’s world. Take the Olympics, for example. Hard to imagine what the skating rink would look like without those ubiquitous banners touting fast-food restaurants and telephone companies. It’s not just the big events that draw sponsors, either. Small, local events—10K runs, award dinners, neighborhood festivals—usually have a slew of corporate logos in the accompanying literature.

Why is corporate sponsorship so prevalent? Quite simply, it makes money. Done correctly, it can make a lot of money and build important relationships. Done poorly, it can cost money and waste many people’s time.

I’ve put together a 9-step guide that offers tips on soliciting, acquiring and retaining corporate sponsors. It is by no means a “definitive” guide, but it is a good starting point. The guide was written with small- to mid-size events in mind, however most of the suggestions offered apply to larger groups as well.

Note: This article will NOT tell you what type of event you should do. That’s another subject. There are many things to choose from, from dinners to auctions to golf tournaments to walk-a-thons. Before you proceed with the nine steps, though, make sure you have a good event. You should not be soliciting sponsors until you’ve planned the event. Once you’ve figured out what your event is going to be, where it’s going to take place, etc., then you’re ready to move to Step One…

The Steps

1. Determine who your audience is
2. Set sponsorship levels
3. Make lots of phone calls
4. Send proposal letters
5. Follow up
6. Cultivate your relationships with sponsors
7. Cultivate your relationships with non-sponsors
8. Give your sponsors plenty of publicity
9. Cultivate relationships with sponsors, Part II

June 24, 2013

Three Simple Fundraising Campaigns for Summer’s Slowdown

Filed under: Fundraising — admin @ 4:13 am

By FirstGiving.com
1. Create a summer Fundraising Campaign

  • Give it a name, for example, Dog Days of Summer Campaign
  • Set an end date
  • Provide a specific fundraising goal
  • Use Constant Contact (website, newsletter, email)
  • Set realistic expectations

2. Start on your Fall event or campaign

  • Don’t wait until August to begin planning
  • Start marketing and event promotion now
  • Recognize fundraisers and teams over the summer
  • Keep fundraisers engaged & motivated (via constant contact or get together)

3. Leverage active people already outdoors this summer

  • Ask everyone in your database who is running, biking, hiking etc to dedicate their time to raise money for their efforts on your behalf
  • Offer to pay event entry if they get pledges of “x” amount
  • Encourage them to have their event around a big event (e.g. Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day or Back to School)

May 7, 2013

Lean In! Fearless Fundraising.

Filed under: Fundraising — MLWagner @ 6:08 am

If you aren’t aware of the Lean In phenomenon; then lean in and wake up! The concept applies to everyone in every industry. It certainly applies to professional fundraising. Here are five tips I’ve collected from our fearless peers who have lead the way in fearlessly Leaning In.lean_in

1. Focus on your deep spiritual conversion and create your clear, compelling mission before you even think about making an ask: As put forth by former monk and popular consultant Charles LaFond. Lean in together and think about what you’re asking for.

2. You’ll Never Know if you Don’t Ask: As Jerold Panas so eloquently puts it, “The most heinous sin of all – you didn’t ask.” Lean in and ASK.

3. You’ve got to talk to the decision-maker: So “start at the top” says fearless fundraiser Anne Garnett. She further advises, “It’s a lot faster than trying to work your way up from the bottom.” Lean in and ask the one who holds the key to the bank account.

4. Don’t fill the Silence: Roxanne Hinds and Dana Lucka say, “He who speaks first looses”. Lean In and Listen.

5. And finally, I fearlessly Iean in by taking myself out of the equation and taking the focus away from the fundraising word by exchanging it with “Advocating and telling your story for the Cause”. The change in ones mindset is extraordinary when you lean in as an advocate rather than a fundraiser. Lean in as an Advocate, tell your story, and the money will follow.

April 16, 2013

7 Things That Will Make You a Better Fundraiser

Filed under: Fundraising — admin @ 5:48 am

By Margaux Smith

fundraiserThree years ago, I didn’t even know fundraising was a profession. (Some of the contributors to this blog have been raising money for charity since I was a baby!) But when I arrived, I threw myself into the deep end and have consequently learned a great deal in a short time.

Most of all, I’ve learned that no amount of study can replace years of experience. So while I wait for the time to fill me with wisdom, I’ve learned to improve my fundraising in more immediate ways. Here are seven ways I’ve discovered. Feel free to challenge them or add your own in the comments.

1. Brush up on your teamwork skills

Working as part of a team is necessary in nearly every type of fundraising role. And sadly, almost all of us are stuck with at least one colleague who is far more concerned with number one (it might even be you). I can be a bit of a lone wolf, so this is something I’ve had to make an effort to improve, but goodness, is it ever important. The quality of your work, and your office morale, depend on it. So join an after-work sports league, or club, go out and meet new people. Practice listening, compromising, and working towards a common goal. You might be surprised how good the result can be when you let go of a little control.

2. Write letters to people you love

By hand. With real stamps and everything. I find this especially useful as a direct mail copywriter, but all fundraisers write to donors at some point, whether it’s emails, social media, or thank you cards. Writing real letters is a great way to remind yourself how special the written word can be. Your communications will become more conversational, personal, and heart-felt. And chances are, you’ll get an equally thoughtful response in your mailbox before long. Then you’ll have the chance to see how much it’s possible to connect with an outer envelope (my best friend addresses her’s to ‘Miss Margaux Smith’ and my Grandpa types my details straight from his old-timey typewriter). You’ll experience the joy of tearing it open to reveal the care and consideration enclosed, knowing they took the time to sit down and create something special, just for you (I like to add cute animal stickers to my letters for a bit of visual flare). It will just make your whole day.

So try it. Remind yourself why direct mail isn’t going to ‘die’ anytime soon. Because it’s awesome.

3. Donate and volunteer

This one’s a bit of a no-brainer. You should donate to your own charity fairly often as a mystery shopper to ensure your donors are having a good experience. Major gift fundraisers should be donors so they can solicit with genuine conviction. And I’ve already written about why it’s so important to get away from your desk and out to your front lines to reconnect with the emotion of your work.

But I also think it’s vital to do this outside of the office. Give your money and time to causes close to your heart, where you can separate yourself from the internal politics and paperwork. This job can be frustrating – it takes effort to keep from becoming jaded. But it really helps to revel in the sheer joy of being a donor. Damn, it feels good.

4. Fill your brain bank

We’re all creative beings. And the process of putting ideas to paper becomes easier as our brains become more full. If you’ve seen an experienced creative at work, you’ll know their brilliance seem to come out of thin air. You can present them with a problem that you’ve been trying to solve for hours and, within 30 seconds, they make a suggestion that leaves your ideas look like a sack of turds.

Of course, it’s not unattainable for any of us, but it does take a great deal of effort and practice. What they’re doing is pulling from the vast wealth of knowledge filed away in their mind – everything they’ve ever read, watched, learned, and experienced. The trick is to practice pulling from it, and like many aspects of fundraising greatness, this takes years to develop.

So in the mean time, we can fill our brain with as much variety as possible and get to filing it away for future use. Read. A lot. Not just about fundraising, but about anything that interests you. Let your imagination run wild as often as possible. Go on adventures. Get uncomfortable. Travel. Challenge yourself. Watch old movies, new movies, television that makes you laugh and cry and think. You can even benefit from unintellectual smut. I’ve been able to write in the voice of a teenage mother because I watch MTV’s Teen Mom, and the voice of a young girl with Asperger’s after I learned about it from an America’s Next Top Model contestant who lived on the spectrum. Yes, really. You’d be surprised what you can pull out of that ol’ brain bank. The more you vary the contents, the more interesting and diverse your work will become. So be interested in as much as possible. (I’m still waiting for the appeal where I can put my extensive knowledge of ornithology and paleontology to good use…)

5. Make mistakes

I put my foot in my mouth on a near-daily basis. But it sure does speed up the learning process. (As long as you’re not repeating the same mistakes.) And as a bonus, it also gives you the opportunity to show people that you can eagerly admit when you’re wrong and apologize. This proves you’re human, and seems to be one of the most endearing qualities a person can possess. So take risks, put yourself out there, and recognize that it is OK to be imperfect. (Donors will love you for it too.)

6. Don’t be a snob

Following on from above, recognize that, in a sector this vast, there is always more to learn. Even if you’ve been around these parts for more than 20 years and you’ve seen it all, you can’t see into the future. (If you can, call me. I want to know you.)

It’s impossible to know what’s around the corner in this ever-changing fundraising world. These days, mobile’s growing, online/offline integration is becoming increasing crucial, and baby boomers are taking over the traditional donor base. These problems were hardly talked about a decade ago (from what I can gather), and we’ll certainly be concerned with other things a decade from now. So I don’t care who you are, you don’t know everything and you never will.

By all means, please bring all the knowledge and experience you can to the table. But be open to what others are bringing. We’ll all be stronger for it. Be confident but adaptable, and remain a great listener – you’ll stay relevant until the day you die. The people I look up to most in this sector are the ones who embody this mindset.

7. Give a damn

I reached a point last spring, around my 6-month mark as a copywriter, where I was boiling over with self-doubt. Struggling and convinced I’d be fired any day, I was stuck in the creative gap, as Ira Glass describes it. But at that crucial point, I got a pep-talk from one of my bosses. I confided my fears, telling him I didn’t feel I was a very good writer. My ideas weren’t interesting enough and I wasn’t sure I could cut it in this business.

He looked me straight in the eye and said (with his Geordie conviction and much more cussing than I’ll include here), ‘Well, no. You’re not very good. But you will be. Because you give a damn and that’s something nobody can teach.’

He’s right. In this business you have to care. Really care. With every fiber of your being. So much that it hurts. That you get angry and you cry and you do something about it. Whatever you can, every day.

It sounds simple but we all know this sector can be tough. Outside, people don’t understand us. They think we’re money-grubbing, manipulators. Inside, it’s not always better. You hear ‘no’ so often, it can sometimes feel like the whole world is trying to knock you down. So please don’t stop giving a damn. And if you do, kindly get out.

“has been published prior on 101fundraising – Crowdblog on Fundraising, http://101fundraising.org/

March 11, 2013

Grant Research: Best Practices

Filed under: Grant Writing — MLWagner @ 1:11 am

Many grant writers are captivated by generating Foundation Directory prospect lists and beginning the grant writing process. I say, “Whoa”. While that prospect list is a good place to start, you must remember it is just the first step in your prospect research. What follows are the thorough and appropriate steps to prospect research done in a manner which increases your odds in winning that grant. Here they are:

1. Foundation Directory: Place you criteria in and make certain to click the button which tells them to exclude ‘unsolicited’ applications. This is your first list.

2. Review Prospect List: Review the above prospect list by looking at each funder to find out who they are making grants to. Make a list of those nonprofit organizations who have been recipients of grants from List one. This is now your second list.

3. Review Non Profit Grantee’s: Look at the non profits grantee’s page within the Foundation Directory; make a list of other organizations that have granted to them. You should also take the time to visit their website to see if you can download their annual report. If so, capture even more funders who have granted to them. This process makes up your third prospect list.

You now have three prospects lists by searching the front end within the Foundation Directory through a typical search; but you have created a second and third prospect list (the second list simply leads you to developing your third prospect list) by searching the back end of the Foundation Directory – seeking out grantee’s similar to your organization and finding out who is funding them. This 1-2-3 process can all be accomplished within the Foundation Directory search features.

Now that you have two solid prospect lists which accept unsolicited grant proposals – qualify them and place them into categories of P1 (Priority One), P2 (Priority Two), and P3 (Priority Three); you can qualify by how closely the guidelines match your organization or by grant deadlines. Create a spread sheet to assist you with the next step. Your spreadsheet should include: Name of Organization, Contact Information, Guidelines, Grant Range, Deadlines, Application Information, Grant Submission Date, Ask Amount, Outcome and then a place for Notes.

4. Contact Prospects: Now that you have your prospect lists well organized, you must contact (when allowed) your prospective funder. Remember this, what the guidelines indicate on the foundation directory are only guidelines – call the funder to discuss the guidelines to ensure they truly fit your organization before you write a grant to this organization. This gives you an opportunity to pitch your project and the funder will be more than happy to let you know if it is something that would be of interest to them or not. If they are interested, you submit your grant or letter of intent. If they are not interested you take them off your prospect list.
One of the most common errors in grant research is taking a prospect list and blindly submitting grants to organizations on this list. If you follow the above steps you will be better serving your non profit or clients. You will ensure that you have the most comprehensive list by searching the back end and looking at similar nonprofits and adding their funders to your initial Foundation Directory list. Then you create your spreadsheet so you can easily track your contact with your prospects and finally you call your prospects to ensure they want to receive a grant from you and your organization or client.

February 20, 2013

How to Increase Google Page Rank – 10 Best Ways

Filed under: General — MLWagner @ 1:31 am

Like many of you, most of my new business is driven by people searching Google for a fundraising professional, so I’m always curious what the best and most current ways are to increase your Google ranking. I recently came across Chiranjeev Kumar’s blog who explained it in a manner that I understood; which means he kept is simple/stupid. This is a bit of what Chiranjeev shared:
1. Write Quality Content:
As you know “Content is King” in Blogging because your chances are higher to get a link back.
2. Write Guest Post:
Guest Posting always comes first when we talk about how to build back links. Guest posting is the best way to get back links for free. Find a blog/website with a high Google Page rank which accepts guest posts. Make sure the blog you’ve selected for guest posting is relevant to your blog niche.
3. Article Submission
Submitting your blog article to various social bookmarking sites like Google plus, Facebook, Twitter etc. is a great way to get back links for your articles. Just use social bookmarking buttons on your blog and start submitting your posts to these sites yourself or your readers can submit.
4. Submit Blog to Directories
As you know high quality back links are useful for a good Google Page rank. Submitting your blog/website to various Blog directories is the best way to get back links from PR sites. So this is a good practice to get high qualify back links by submitting your blog to the best blog directories.
5. Use No follow Links effectively
For a good Google page rank you must maintain all outgoing links from your blog by using “No follow” tags wisely.
6. Update Your Site Regular
Google likes websites that updated regularly. A regularly updated blog has more a greater chance to get a high page rank.
7. Interlinking Your Webpage
Many blogs interlink their webpage in each blog post. Even You should also interlink your current blog with other blog posts.
8. Submit Website on RSS Directory
Submitting your website to various RSS directories helps increase your blog’s Google Page Rank. Alltop, Blloggs, Myblog, Blog.com are some of the best RSS Directories
9. Comment on Dofollow Blogs
Commenting on Dofollow blogs is quick and easiest way to get Dofollow backlinks for your Blog or website. You just need to find some dofollow blogs relevant to your niche and start commenting.

10. Post links on Forums
As you know Forums are updated most frequently. Posting on various forums helps you to increase Google Page Rank for your blog. Getting a backlink from these forums is the best way to increase your Google Page rank. I recommend you to join various high PR forums and start posting links from your site.

February 4, 2013

Keeping it all straight: 8 tips for getting grant-organized

Filed under: General — admin @ 11:15 pm

By Patty Hasselbring

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” – A. A. Milne

You got the grant. You thanked the funder. You notified all the involved parties. You and your team celebrated. You are ready to roll. Next comes the action – starting the project or activities that were funded!

Setting up your record-keeping system doesn’t sound quite as exciting, but it’s also important for many reasons. For example, it will help you find important information quickly, and you’ll be able to oversee the fulfillment of grant obligations.

Here are eight tips to help you get – and keep – it all straight.
1. Start your record-keeping system right away.
2. Scan copies of all paper documents and keep them in your computer files.
3. Electronic folders and subfolders will become your primary filing system. I usually suggest structuring the folders in six or seven major categories:
 o Grant Proposal – the original proposal, amendments, etc.
 o Budget Information – the original budget, any budget amendments, and budget      worksheets and notes
 o Financial Reports, including documentation of required matching funds
 o Correspondence, including relevant emails
 o Progress Reports
 o Evaluation Information – statistical information, reports, analysis
 o Collaboration Documents (if the grant is for a collaboration with other             organizations) – agreements with the collaborators and relevant information          about them and their programs

4. Use a unique name and date for each electronic document. So, rather than simply calling a document “report,” name it “Monthly Report June 2013.” Then you can tell what is in each document by looking at the name, rather than having to open every document to see what it contains.
5. Back up your computer files regularly. Don’t forget. Back up your files. Regularly.
6. Consider keeping copies of each grant file on its own flash drive for portability when needed.
7. Start a file in your email software for this grant. Sub-files may also be helpful. Keep copies of emails relating to the grant and grant program.
8. Maintain a paper file. Yes. A paper file. Organize all paper relating to the grant in one file. When you meet with the funder or others who are involved with the grant program, bring the folder with you so you can quickly access the information you need. You can use a partition folder, a heavy pressboard file that use two-hole punches at the top of each sheet, or a heavy-duty three-ring notebook. While your electronic files may contain much more information, this hard-copy file will include the basic and relevant information.

January 18, 2013

5 Ways to Validate Giving Decisions & Drive Retention

Filed under: Fundraising — Tags: , , — admin @ 12:57 am

By Ashley Halligan

Matthew Mielcarek, the VP of Consulting at Charity Dynamics, recently submitted an article to the company I work for http://www. softwareadvice.com/nonprofit/crm- software-comparison/ with some pretty timely, pretty fantastic, and pretty prescriptive advice for nonprofit organizations entering the New Year. Bringing in the December giving trends — and the New Year, Mielcarek’s article outlines donor retention strategies — specifically, how to retain the newly acquired holiday donors.

With a third of annual donations collected in December, many by first-time donors to an organization, finding a way to keep as many of those as possible going into a new year is a retention strategy proving quite valuable over time. A 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report https://www.blackbaud.com/files/resources/downloads/WhitePaper_Multi ChannelGivingAnalysis.pdf shows that 70 percent of first-time donors won’t donate again. Here are five steps Mielcarek suggests to foster lasting relationships with as many of them as possible.

1) Mielcarek says, “First time donors are qualified leads.” Therefore, consider first donations an acquisition gift. He goes on to suggest implementing a new donor conversion plan with the end-goal being to establish an ongoing relationship

2) Secondly, he says to be mindful of what a new donor may be communicating with you. He suggests the following metrics to gain insight to constituent behaviors: gift amount, billing city/state, solicitation campaign, and giving channel. He says that analyzing these key points is valuable. “Online acquired donors, for instance, generally have poor online retention; we know that a multichannel communication strategy will be important. In contrast, offline acquired donors are far less likely to cross the multichannel bridge and a single channel communication strategy may be appropriate.”

3) Mielcarek also emphasizes the importance of showing gratefulness to donors. One NTEN and Charity Dynamics study shows that 21 percent of donors say there were not thanked for giving. He says that follow-up thank yous are also of immense value. Tell them how your year ended in terms of its goals. Show them they’re donation made an impact to their overall mission.

4) He adds, “Engage relevantly.” Beyond thank-yous, communicate with your donors and supporters on an ongoing basis. Personalize messages based on constituent interests, affinities, and locations. Keeping websites up-to-date and engaging is a key element to achieving lasting constituent interest too.

5) Lastly is the actual conversion to the next stage of giving, Mielcarek says. This stage involves suggesting an affinity-driven gift — whether that be a “renewal gift, or an upgrade or graduation to a monthly or mid-level giving program.”

December 5, 2012

What was trending in Fundraising this month: November 2012

Filed under: General — admin @ 12:07 am

Monitoring fundraising/philanthropy blogs and articles this past month, here is what’s trending:
1.Give to the Max, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday , #GivingTuesday,: November was the month to be thankful for online fundraising marketing trends! The benefits go well past direct support of your charity or business of choice – it reaches everyone by closing the ‘comfort level gap’ in buying and donating on-line. Cheers to that!

2.Direct-Mail Fundraising: While the ‘trend’ is on-line
fundraising – Direct-Mail remains the go to year-end fundraising tactic. November was flooded with hints and tips on how to move your direct mail from good to great. Top articles and blogs included: Best Direct Mail Teasers, Direct Mail Follow Up, Personalize Your Audience, and If You Want People to Read Your Appeals Remember This…

3. Creating your Fundraising Plan for 2013: Headline leaders include: Preventing Donor Attrition, Mobile Giving – What is it? How to Use it?, and One Thing you can do to Raise Money in the New Year.

4. The Fiscal Cliff!: According to the Non Profit Times and every major news network, we are abundantly aware of the looming “fiscal cliff”. Prepare for the fall or fall-out in January. The Non Profit Times writes, “charities are wary of not only losing direct federal funding for some programs but also fear being overwhelmed to make up the difference in potentially lost services.” More to come on the imminent back-lash in January.

5. Crowd Funding: Crowd Funding takes the prize for what was trending in 2012. From what I can tell, the term went viral when the Obama Administration began using it. I believe it’s best defined by what Fundly, Kickstarter and indiegogo are doing to raise money for small to large non or for profit organizations.

November 6, 2012

What was trending in Fundraising this month: October 2012

Filed under: General — admin @ 12:11 am

Monitoring fundraising/philanthropy blogs and articles this past month, here is what’s trending:

1. Lance: The saga of cyclist Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace continues to grace the news this October as he steps down from his LiveStrong Foundation now that he’s been found guilty of doping by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and stripped of his seven Tour de France victories. He’s also facing a lifetime ban and the foundation has experienced a dip in donations.

2. #GivingTuesday: The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, November 27, 2012 has been dubbed and branded as Giving Tuesday and widely marketed throughout the month. The campaign encourages giving which supports your preferred nonprofit organizations.

3. Sandy’s Wrath and Aftermath: The outpouring of support for Sandy’s devastation had been the promotion of the celebrity-filled and widely promoted live one-hour special on Friday, November 2 in response to the disaster caused by the storm. Hosted by NBC “Today” anchor Matt Lauer, the broadcast was presented from the New York studios of NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and raised a very worthy $23 million.

4. Breast Cancer Awareness Month: In my humble opinion, it’s simply the preeminent branding success story in the US perhaps the world.

5. Holiday Fundraising: Check out donationpage.org. You will find the clever “pre-holiday on-line work out” which includes: ‘warming up’ your landing page, ‘strength’ training for your story, social media ‘cardio’, ‘stretch’ to keep your fundraising limber, and an analytical ‘cool’ down.

October 17, 2012

Must Have Fundraising Apps for Your Smart Phone

Filed under: Fundraising,Grant Writing — Tags: , — MLWagner @ 11:43 pm

Whether you’re a social entrepreneur, in the business of federal grant writing, or you scurry around planning special events; there is most likely an app out there created to ease the way. Here are my top five as of October 2012:

1. Kickstarter 101

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects, everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others. Since its launch on April 28, 2009, over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects, now that’s a kick-start!

2. JustGiving

Allows fundraisers to keep track of what they are raising in real-time, it alerts you each time a donation is made and you can easily share with your contacts. Furthermore, if you know who just gave, you can thank them in real time as well! Nifty.

3. Rally.org

Set up a social donation page in minute’s using Rally’s fundraising platform to share your story in a new way. Easily customize a cause donation page with your own design or use one of their templates. It rids you of the cost and burden of needing to create a merchant account for your nonprofit in order to accept donations.

4. The Razoo iPhone App

Razoo enables you to manage your fundraisers and engage your donors. You can keep track of each donation, view your fundraising progress, ask people to give, and thank everyone who makes a donation. A one-stop iPhone fundraising app!

5. Fundraising Basics

This app is perfect for those just starting out in fundraising or those needing fresh ideas for the events they are coordinating. Full of tips and tricks, Fundraising Basics provides you with time saving methods and information to tackle the obstacles you may encounter. In this Android app you will find: 10 things your fundraising plan must include and how to put it together, 12 things your website must tell your visitors, and 6 common-sense but overlooked ways to find untapped pools of donors – among other advice.

October 2, 2012

What was Trending in Fundraising this September 2012

Monitoring fundraising/philanthropy blogs and articles this past month, here is what’s trending in fundraising this past month:

1. How to Raise Money via Facebook: We’ve got the “21 things you should know about facebook” type of articles, how nonprofits can use facebook ads effectively, and my favorite, separating your personal facebook page from your non profit page; sounds simple – not necessarily so….

2. Year-end Fundraising: Just yoga’d the Autumnal Equinox and simultaneously my in-box is over-loading with solicitations to prepare for year end. It’s reminiscent of school supplies showing up in Target the day after the 4th of July. What was out there in September: how to do it, start it now, get your board to help, hire someone to do it for you now!, help your donor’s say ‘yes’, and year-end mistakes to avoid. It’s some good stuff; read up on it NOW!

3. The Iphone 5: Not so much fundraising, but certainly trending and with that there are new fundraising apps and fundraising-use chatter. For example: “think face to face – think mobile”. Or this new app: Shoparoo has partnered with Proctor & Gamble and Unilever, who produce brands like Dove, Suave, Ragu and Skippy, to raise money for schools. Consumers essentially donate (report) their purchasing habits. You use the app to submit receipts from super-centers, groceries, clubs, pet stores, dollar stores, convenience stores and drug stores- a portion of the proceeds arrive at your designated school; but beware OR prepare for coupons galore filling your in-box.

4. Saying “Thanks”: Clearly this September trend is securely attached to many nonprofit’s rounding the corner to their fiscal year-end. From the “art of saying thank you” to “anyone can say thank you – just have someone do it”.

5. Political Fundraising: This could very well remain on the ‘what’s trending’ short list long after November 4th. A couple new ones to be mindful of: The Chronicle added, “Where the 2012 Presidential Candidates Stand on Key Nonprofit Issues” by Suzanne Perry. The Non Profit Times included, “With Election Around The Corner, Charities Must Tread Carefully” by Janice Ryan & Ronald Jacobs. I encourage you to read both if you haven’t already.

If you want to contribute to ‘what’s trending in fundraising’, give me a holla at

September 17, 2012

Arrrrgh! Some People are so DIFFICULT – or is it me?

I believe the real answer is that it’s “us”; personality types not meshing. So where am I going with this? I hate conflict. Heck, I
lose sleep over it while others shrug their shoulders and move on, or they kind of love it.
A successful fundraising program is directly tied to how well you get along with those involved; and how well those involved get along with each other. You will raise more money within a joyful, collaborative team. Conflict creates distraction, and distraction takes your eye off the prize; reaching your fundraising goal.
Here’s a quick and easy solution to conflict resolution: Personality Assessments. Most of you are familiar with Myers Brigg’s and may recall your letter type-indicator. I don’t recall mine, but know it was the same type as other fundraising professionals in the room; and very different than the lawyers.
I just took a similar personality assessment called DiSC®. It’s also designed to help you work with different personality types. This article is not an endorsement for any particular type of test, rather an encouragement that every few years you take one. A refresher course on why some people get on so well with a person you wish would disappear by clicking your heels a few times.

Understanding your true self and how you are perceived by others is pretty important as a fundraising professional. One of the first things I
tell a new client is that, “This is going to be hard work, if fundraising were easy, everyone would do it successfully.” Next, I tell them that
we’re going to have FUN! Authentic enthusiasm is infectious, and the money follows.
Take a personality assessment. Find out how people perceive you, better understand other temperaments and hone your ability to identify them so you can control the traits which are in conflict with theirs. We know you can’t change people, so managing conflict sits solidly on you. By knowing yourself and changing your behavior, you will do a better job of avoiding conflict when it pops up and raise funds rather than tempers.

Wondering where my personality assessment lands? First you need to know what four personalities types are offered: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness,
and Conscientiousness. I was almost perfectly balanced between two types according to the DiSC®: Conscientiousness and Influence. Here’s the irony,
according to the assessment, Conscientiousness and Influence types should struggle. What does that say about me? While I’m a critical thinker, detailed and orderly (Conscientiousness); I am also prone to persuade others to get involved and ensure results are not only accomplished but exceeded (Influence). Lastly, I’m considerate of others because I don’t like conflict (aha!). The assessment does seem to define what it takes to successfully raise money: one needs to be an authentic, fearless, people person AND the nerd who totally digs research and wins those grants. Cheers to personality assessments!

August 31, 2012

Fundraising: What’s Trending this Month

Monitoring fundraising/philanthropy blogs and articles this past month, here’ what’s trending in fundraising:

1. Political Fundraising: Shocker! More specifically, campaign volunteers giving first before asking. Does celebrity endorsement/giving hurt or help? Secret, non-traceable data-mining for the perfect prospective donor.

2. Livestrong: Hum. Good guy or Bad guy? Drops the doping fight (admission of guilt?) and bolsters Livestrong charities (again!). Two things are certain, this guy has a steadfast core group of donors and he made silicon bracelets must-have bling.

3. Should Non Profits Jump on the Social Media Train? Gosh, this is topic trending for 2012 for sure. Current or on-going discussion: small non profits are missing out by not utilizing social media, what social media increases google rankings (kinda varies but pretty much: Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn), How to use Social Media to raise money and so on….

4. Women are more Generous than Men – so pay attention to us! Not certain why this came up so much this month, could be driven by the Chronicles’ recent blog on the topic – those trendsetters!

5. Design: Website, Colors, Image, Slogan, Name….lot’s of branding chatter to increase your nonprofit chatter.

June 26, 2012

Start Your NonProfit for Sustainability: Part Two Fundraising

Finally, you are now in business and we can start fundraising for your organization in earnest.  Nonprofits, like most start up businesses, begin with the founder personally (and perhaps your board members) funding the organization until it can be funded with outside sources.  If you have to fund the organization yourself at the beginning, be sure to keep meticulous records of what you have put into the organization and be clear about its intent. For example, whether your funding is a gift or a loan to the organization. Here are some creative, fun and traditional ways to fund a nonprofit organization:

  1. Sell Something.  Collect and sell items on Ebay or Craigslist to raise your start-up capital.
  2. Borrow Against Life Insurance Policies.  If you have a life insurance policy, check to see if it has cash value. Most policies start accumulating cash value after a certain period of time.  When you borrow against your life insurance policy, your policy stays intact as long as you continue paying the premiums when due.  If you die while there’s an outstanding loan against your policy then the face amount is reduced by the loan amount. The nice thing about borrowing against your life insurance policy is that there’s no credit check, or income verification like most other loans. All you have to do is call you insurance company and let them know you want to borrow the cash value.
  3. Borrow from Family and Friends.  Your friends and family are a good source of capital fundraising. This might be one of the most cost effective ways to fundraise for your business—that’s if your friends or family members are not asking for interest on the loan.  You can also protect the spirit of the transaction by putting your agreement in writing and making small payments as soon as you can.
  4. Grants.  Depending on what your business is there are a number of small and large corporations that give away money in the form of grants.  Grants are usually competitive in nature, but once you receive the money repayment is not required or expected.  Grant amounts vary and some may have conditions. Once your grant period is complete, you should mail the grantor a final report clearly indicating what was accomplished with the grant money. This should be done whether or not it is required.
  5. Fundraising Registry Sites.  There are many fundraising sites that are geared toward nonprofits.  Most fundraising sites have fees or a percentage that you are required to pay based on the amount of money you raise.  The fees the site owner may charge could include a monthly user fee, or credit card fee and other nominal charges.  You should check before you start using the site.  Once you’ve set up your fundraising idea on the registry then it is up to your efforts to send your site link to everyone you know and request a donation.  Let them know how their contribution will help you and this will motivate donors. This is a fun way to raise money through your own creativity and watch your money grow on your site. Don’t forget to say “thank you”. Some fundraising registry sites to research are Network for Good and Razoo.
  6. Place a Donate Button on Website.  More and more nonprofits have a “donate” button on their websites.  If your ultimate goal is to fundraise then you need to consider a “donate” button on every page of your website. The internet technology today makes it easier for individuals to donate anytime without leaving the comfort of their home.

If you find a couple or even just one of the above idea’s to make sense and feel it will give your new organization enough cushion to seed your program – I would recommend that you also give some thought to investing in a part-time fundraising professional. Oftentimes the first investment in a fundraising professional is a consultant; which is smart as it most likely will bring in more money sooner rather than later. It is important to note that it may be more beneficial to your organization in the long run to have them on staff. Whichever direction you take, give thoughtful consideration to the level of importance those donor relationships are to offer your organization sustainability over the long-haul.

May 16, 2012

Start Your Nonprofit for Sustainability – Part One

Part One of our series in starting a nonprofit will guide you through the steps of formal incorporation. Part Two of our series will provide you with proven ways to raise those first dollars for your nonprofit. Let’s begin.

So you’ve come up with a great idea and a vision to form a nonprofit organization. But where do you start? Here we’ve provided your road map to get a new nonprofit off the ground with sustainability always in mind. The process of forming and incorporating a nonprofit is similar to a corporation, except for a few differences. A nonprofit cannot be formed from any of the following entities: Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Corporation or a Corporation “C” or “S”.

A nonprofit, like a corporation, is a legal entity separate from the founder(s); it can survive the life of its founder(s) and can exist infinitely. Unlike a corporation that is owned by its shareholders, a nonprofit does not have shareholders and is not owned by anyone, but is managed by the board of directors. The other distinct difference between a corporation and a nonprofit is how the income is taxed. Now, let’s take you through the process. 

Step One: Recruit a Board of Directors.  A board should include diverse representation from the following: finance, legal, someone who represents or is considered an expert with regard to your mission, someone who represents the people you exist to serve, local corporate executive(s) – specifically from a company who tends to fund organizations like yours, community/professional volunteer(s) – persons with a network of wealth, and another nonprofit executive. Ensure that you have a job description in place which clearly indicates board member expectations, including all information related to your nonprofit. Expectations should include: governance, financial support, and hands-on leadership. You do not want a board of directors that feels “just showing up” fulfills their duty. Finally, you never stop looking for good board members. Your board should have a set tenure to ensure there is always room for fresh faces, ideas, and connections.

Step Two: Formation Meeting. The formation meeting is a meeting of the initial board of directors to vote on incorporating and pursuing the tax exemption status as well as to establish the purpose of the nonprofit. During this meeting and all subsequent board meetings, make sure to take meeting minutes to show a unanimous agreement by the board before moving forward.

Step Three: Naming Your Nonprofit. Name selection is important because it identifies your purpose and creates your identity and brand. Pick your organization name like you pick your child’s name—repeat it often, pretend to answer the phone using the name to hear if it has a nice ring to it. You can choose almost any name you want for your organization as long as it is not already in use. You can check name availability on your state’s governing website to see if it is available before you file it. Generally this is the secretary of state’s office.

Step Four: Incorporate.  The incorporation process is similar to that of a corporation. The Articles of Incorporation are prepared and filed with the state’s governing body; again, typically the Secretary of State’s office. Some states have sample articles which you can obtain and use in drafting your articles, however, meeting the state’s minimum filing requirement does not necessarily mean you meet the IRS’s requirements. Make sure you properly and carefully draft articles of incorporation that meet the requirements of the IRS if you plan to apply for federal tax exemption; which you will. There is a filing fee associated with this process paid to the state. The fee for the state is usually around $100; the filing fee for your tax-exempt status is around $850. 

Step Five: The Bylaws. You are required to prepare bylaws for your nonprofit. Bylaws are the rules used by the board to govern your nonprofit. Most states do not require a copy of the bylaws to be filed with the state. Regardless of filing requirements, it is a state law requirement that an incorporated entity have written bylaws. The IRS will require a copy of the bylaws to be filed with your application for tax-exemption.

Step Six: Obtain your Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). Once you’ve completed your paperwork, you will need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) also known as a federal tax ID from the IRS. You can do this quickly and easily online. Don’t forget to print out a copy for your permanent records. You will also need a copy to submit to the IRS with your tax exemption application. To apply for your EIN visit the IRS’s website. It is important to note that simply holding an EIN number does not mean you are approved as a 501(c)3 by your state or the IRS. You can raise money for your organization prior to approval. However, be mindful that more often than not, granting organizations require an approved 501(c)3 and will ask for a copy of your approved status letter.

Step Seven: Application for tax exemption to the IRS. After you have incorporated your nonprofit and obtained your EIN, then you can start your tax exemption application to the IRS using IRS Form 1023. The form can be obtained at the IRS website. This is a comprehensive application. You must carefully read the instructions, learn about the laws of compliance, complete the application, and collect & assemble the attachments. Hiring a professional to help you is highly recommended. If you are attempting to do this on your own, the IRS estimates a few hundred hours are necessary to complete this application. After your initial review, complete the application to the ‘letter’ of their instruction. If your application is not clear or missing important information, it will be sent back to you for more information. If it does not fit within the tax exemption regulations, it will be denied. As mentioned above, there is a fee associated with this application; approximately $850. The fee changes periodically, so be sure to check the filing fee before you submit the application. The IRS is currently taking between 6-8 months to assign the application to an exempt organization specialist. If your application is approved, you will get a “Letter of Determination” that classifies your organization as tax exempt. The nice thing about this long process is that the date of your exemption is retroactive to the date that the IRS first received your application. This means that if you did receive a donation requiring 501(c)3 status prior to your approval, you will ultimately be in compliance with the funding organization and the IRS. Yet, it is not recommended to raise funds externally until you receive your Letter of Determination.

State Tax Exemption. Most states recognize and accept the federal tax exemption “Letter of Determination.” However, there are a handful of states that have additional state requirements to be income tax exempt for state purposes. You will have to consult your state’s governing body to see if there are additional state requirements.

Ongoing Compliance. After you are officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization, there are a handful of things that you must do to maintain compliance with state and federal requirements. Some states require an annual report. Most states require an annual corporate renewal, and some states do not require state income taxes to be filed unless the nonprofit receives a certain threshold income.  As you can see, each state operates differently. The key is to keep yourself informed and up-to-date with the requirements of your specific state. On the federal side, IRS Form 990 or a variation of Form 990 is required to be filed annually. This is the annual tax return form for nonprofit organizations regardless of income. Currently, the law states that if you fail to file Form 990 for three consecutive years, the IRS will automatically revoke your nonprofit status. If this happens, then the nonprofit can no longer receive tax-deductible contributions. Additionally, you will have to reapply for tax exemption again. You have taken the time to build your nonprofit, so take the time to take care of it and remain compliant.

Let’s quickly review your nonprofit incorporation steps: 

  • File the certificate of incorporation
  • Select individuals to serve on the board of directors
  • Develop vision and mission statements
  • Establish bylaws and board policies
  • Obtain an employer identification number (EIN)
  • File for federal tax exemption
  • Follow state and local nonprofit regulations

Next month look for a step by step process to raise those very first dollars for your newly incorporated nonprofit.

April 18, 2012

Increase Fundraising Revenue with Donor Recognition Cards

A memorial gift is a common way of donating to a nonprofit. But think about taking memorial gifts one step further by building a strategic and branded Donor Recognition Card Program that proactively markets and encourages donors to think beyond giving gifts in memory.

Let’s outline what types of special occasions are best to promote and it will detail the Recognition Card Program internal procedures and protocols as professional fundraising consultants we recommend to ensure a well run program. Let’s begin.

The Best Special Occasions to Promote: We’ve all heard the cliché, “What do I give someone who already has everything”? There’s an altruistic answer; begin to brand and promote giving gifts in honor of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Encourage donors who already have what they need to ask guests to give contributions to your organization in lieu of gifts for their new baby & shower, a birthday, their wedding (check out the https://www.idofoundation.org/). Also promote examples of gifts given from Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other special occasion.

Brand Your Program: Making a gift to charity in ones honor provides a meaningful response; and may even create a spark within that person to begin to do the same. As a fundraising professional, whenever given the opportunity to speak to a captive audience about your nonprofit and how they can help; emphasize the many ways to give to your organization through your Donor Recognition Card Program. Brand it as a unique and touching way they may remember or honor someone special. The donor will find that giving to a particular organization in this fashion affects their loved ones in a way they will remember and cherish.

Here’s a genuine example of how giving to a nonprofit through recognition cards encouraged one donor to pay it forward.  A client of our consulting group asked friends and family members to give donations to a nonprofit significant to them instead of giving gifts to them after the birth of their first child. This donor got the idea after his company purchased Holiday Cards they give to clients instead of their traditional box of chocolate covered cherries. Once introduced to the new concept or trend of gifting donations to a nonprofit in lieu of personal gifts for a special occasion, it will prompt some people to donate in a similar manner in the future; building your Recognition Card Program brand and ultimately revenue for your nonprofit.

Your Recognition Card Procedure: Talking about your nonprofit’s Recognition Card Program is just the beginning. As with any specific and branded professional fundraising strategy or program, you must be able to communicate with your donors efficiently and precisely. Your Recognition Card Program is no different. Therefore, establish procedures and protocols to ensure a well thought out system is in place to implement and manage your Recognition Card Program.

If you do not follow through and create that Recognition Card Program system within your organization; it may backfire. Here’s an example of what to avoid. During the memorial gift acknowledgment process, the name of the deceased was erroneously entered as the donor; as a result the donor was entered as the deceased. Consequently, the memorial gift thank you letter was sent to the deceased’s’ family. In turn, the card intended to notify the deceased’s’ family of the memorial gift was sent to our donor. Shortly after, the nonprofit received an unpleasant call from the donor. The criticism was well deserved; after all, a thank you letter was mailed to a dead person; a person very special to the donor. It didn’t matter who made the mistake, the important next step was to learn from the mistake and fix the procedure.

This vignette offers an ideal segue into how to organize a well-run, fool-proof Recognition Card Program.

Recognition Card Program Procedures:

1.      Recognition Card: You must have Recognition/Memorial Card to send to the person the gift was made in honor/memory of (in the matter of a death – a card to send to the family of the deceased). This card should mention who gave the gift, the occasion, whom the gift was given in honor/memory of, and the name and mission of the organization the gift was given to.  DO NOT mention the amount of the gift.

2.      Thank You Letter: Next, the donor, or person who made the gift must receive a thank you letter letting them know the gift was received by your organization, and a card was sent to the person they have honored or the family of the deceased. You should also include wording that reinforces that the amount of the gift was not mentioned, and include the date that the card was sent.

In the event your organization is receiving numerous memorials for one person, you do not want to send the family of the deceased numerous, identical thank you letters. Instead, phone the family of the deceased, express sympathy for their loss, and personally thank them for the memorial designations to your nonprofit. Then explain that you would be mailing them a list of the donors who gave gifts in memory of their family member; the total amount of donations would be listed at the bottom of the report. This is an effort that is genuinely appreciated by the family, because it is personal and they too want to thank the friends/family who gave a gift in memory of their loved one or gifts in honor of the birth of their child and so on.

3.      Timeliness: Ideally, the recognition card will be sent out the same day the gift was received. The staff member in charge of opening mail and/or managing donations should have recognition cards and stamps accessible to them so they may simply hand write, or print out the card and mail to the intended recipient that same day. The thank you letter to the donor can mail upon your normal thank you letter schedule; which should be at a maximum, weekly.

4.      First-Class stamps: Always use first class stamps when mailing the recognition card and thank you letters.

5.      Procedure Training: Your staff must have a formal training on the procedures used to receive, process, and thank recognition card donations. Procedures should include: 1) One person designated to open gifts; 2) One person designated to handle recognition card gifts (can be the same person); 3) A supply of pre-printed cards on hand; 4) One person designated to hand-write on the card who was honored/memorized by the gift and the name of the donor; 5) One person designated to mail the cards on the day the gift arrived; 6) One person designated to enter recognition card gifts into the donor database; and 7) One person designated to mail thank you letters the week the gift arrives. Of course, the entire procedure can be managed by the same person or two person’s working on the same team.

Raise Money Without Spending It: In running a Recognition Card Program cost effectively, you do not need professionally printed cards/brochures.  You can simply use blank note cards and print your organizations’ logo on the front. The inside of the card can also be printed with appropriate text. This is what you will need:

·         Blank Note Cards: Purchase or ask for donated cards from a discount retailer or paper wholesaler.

 ·         Laser Printer or Ink-jet Printer: Most printers have excellent print quality. It’s recommended to use black and white printing for the best finished product.

 ·         Agency Logo: Ensure you have your agency logo available in JPEG format. If you don’t have your agency logo, you will need to contact the designer of the logo and ask them to email it to you in JPEG format.  If you don’t have access to the designer; scan your agency logo. Scanner’s typically scan an image as a PDF. Take that PDF of your logo and then “save as” a JPEG format. If your version of Acrobat Adobe will not allow you to ‘save as’; find a volunteer or friend who has a purchased version of Acrobat 8 or higher so you may get your logo in JPEG format.

It may seem much attention is being made to having your logo in JPEG format; yet, if you are not already aware, you will find having the availability of your agency logo will save printing costs in many areas.

Begin to discuss the building and branding of a Donor Recognition Card Program within your nonprofit as a permanent and growing fundraising strategy which will increase your revenue far beyond your expectations. The program works, it’s easy to implement and most importantly you will see increased revenue within one year.

March 17, 2012

Raise More Money with Gift Envelopes

No matter your organizations’ size or budget, every nonprofit or professional fundraising consultant must have or recommend using gift envelopes in order for donors to send in their contribution(s). There are times to use postage-paid envelopes (Business Reply Envelopes or BRE’s), and there are times to use regular gift envelopes. Even so, no matter the type of gift envelope, I’ll tell you how to use them and immediately raise more money for your nonprofit.

As a fundraising consultant and trainer, I always emphasize how you can raise more money with gift envelopes simply by placing them in every piece of literature that goes out of your organization and into your community. This includes your annual report, newsletters, press kits, speaker’s bureau literature, agency brochures, invitations, fundraising letters, and thank-you letters. Yes, as an annual fund expert, I make sure all non profits fully understand the importance of placing reply envelopes into your letters which thank donors for their donation.

Let’s talk a bit about placing envelopes in your thank-you letters. In working with and training board members, there’s usually some resistance in adding this strategy to your fundraising plan. Many feel it’s greedy, sends a poor message and may even put you at risk of losing donors. I’ve worked with non profits of all sizes for over twenty years implementing this strategy, and I can tell you it’s not true. You will increase the amount of money you raise simply by incorporating the abundant use of reply envelopes into your fundraising strategy. Donors are more likely to view a gift envelope as a convenience. If you send out a significant amount of thank-you letters, you will begin to raise more money almost immediately.

This next gift envelope fundraising tactic may blow your mind; please trust that it works, the results Wagner Fundraising has tracked over the years speak for themselves. Many fundraising professionals understand that it’s important for a direct-mail program to send something to donors every month. As mentioned earlier, these monthly mailings are newsletters, fundraising letters, an annual report, open house invitation, and seasonal recognition opportunities; like Mother’s Day and holidays.

In preparing your direct mail annual calendar, you may find that there are a couple of months out of the year where you don’t have anything to mail to your donors. Test this tactic; prepare your direct-mail piece using your gift envelope as the ONLY insert. Again, during those two months when you don’t have anything of significance to send to your donors, place a gift envelope inside your mailing envelope and send using regular or bulk mail depending on the size of your mailing list. If you don’t believe it works, go to Wagner Fundraising’s website at wagnerfundraising.com and read endorsements from my workshop attendee’s and read how this tactic helped their giving increase.

Here are real statistics, from Wagner Fundraising Groups’ clients when using gift envelopes to raise more     money. A mailing was sent to 2,200 donors who gave twice or more in previous years. This group was defined due to their trend in sending more than one gift annually to that organization. This first “Envelope within an Envelope” mailing, as they called it, raised $14,566.50 and received two calls wondering where the letter was. In fact, this direct-mail tactic worked so well that they permanently added the “Envelope within an Envelope” mailing to their annual development strategy, and you should too.

An interesting finding in beginning to place gift envelopes in all organizational mailings is that other direct-mail campaigns do not suffer. You will understand and reap the benefits of witnessing that particular donors will give every time you sent them an envelope, regardless of the insert. When you begin to use gift envelopes in all of your mailings, you will raise more money, and you will realize the additional revenue within a year.

February 9, 2012

Build Your Non Profit Brand in Just Seven Days!

For many non profits, marketing gets no respect, let alone time dedicated to build a brand. So if you’re entering the New Year fed up with the way your organization is portrayed or perceived by the public, or you’ve inherited an internal culture that implies your mission will sell itself, I’ve created the “Brand on a Budget” just for you! First, you must pay attention to my disclaimer: Brand on a Budget in Just Seven Days works best for my friends working hard in the small development shop.

You see, in order for this process to work, the buck must stop with you. Eliminate decisions made by committee; if you don’t, beware – you’ll get bogged down with egos, copy quibbling, and distractions a‘la mode.  Your seven-day focus is to efficiently create a Brand Positioning Statement that is effective, timely, fluid and precisely anchors what you can do for others.

WHAT IS A BRAND? A brand is an accumulation of assumptions about your organization disseminated to the public which now defines your organization for better or worse. These assumptions are formed by everything you’ve communicated, acted on, and/or interacted with. For example, when an interested party asks a chance question about your organization, the knee-jerk response from bystanders may be primarily based on a feeling rather than fact.  What does this mean? It means that your reputation, identity, and good work are wrapped up in your brand. GuideStar pulled it together best by saying, “Essentially, your brand is the reputation you have for delivering on your promise.” (Levy, 2011) . What we will do today is put you in control of your brand and its authenticity in a manner that is sustainable.

PREPARATION: This blog isn’t meant for you to read and then immediately launch into Day One of your Brand on a Budget adventure. You need to prepare. And you have two to three weeks for this preparation phase. This is what you to do to prepare for Building Your Brand in Seven Days:

  1. Block off your schedule for the seven day branding crusade; select a day, time, location and invite a minimum of 6 attendees for a full day strategy meeting (described below in Day One).
  2. Research your competitors. It’s like this: before you can stand out in a crowd, you must know what crowd you’re standing in.  In order for your brand to be effective, you need to articulate your brand in a way that is unique and easily explains how you differ from others or focuses on an area where you clearly respond to the cause in a better manner. As a part of your fact-finding, get a handle on what you think they’re doing right, and what you feel they’re doing wrong or could do better for their brand. This will arm you with the “idea starters” you need during your Day One brainstorming session to arrive at your goal of creating your organization’s Branding Position Statement.
  3. Create and email a perception survey to your stakeholders, family and friends. Because you also want feedback from those who know of your organization but are not directly involved. Ask specific questions like: When you think of [your organization], what comes to mind first? Describe what [your organization] does. Are there other organizations that come to mind when thinking about [your mission]? How do you feel we are different from other similar organizations? For additional resources on creating your perception survey, check out QuestionPro, they offer a one month free trial and will lead you through the development of your survey questions based on the outcome you are seeking. They will also submit the survey and analyze the answers. You can also use free services like Survey Monkey, Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, and Vertical Response to conduct your online survey. Each will email the survey and allow you to see how many people opened the email, how many email addresses bounce back, and of course how many responded and what those responses were. Use those responses as your “idea starters” on Day One.
  4. Retain a volunteer professional designer; you will need them on Day One and Two. If there isn’t a clear choice for a professional volunteer designer (who is brilliantly creative) search for well-trained designers by contacting your local design school and community college. You should also look into online volunteer banks like Volunteers Grassroots, Corporation for National & Community Service, World Volunteer Web, or VolunteerMatch.

DAY ONE – BRAINSTORMING: It’s Not about You! Now that you’ve done your homework and you are surrounded by the five best minds you could find, you have this one day to create your brand. During this day you have one objective. That objective is to create and define a  Brand Positioning Statement that elicits a specific emotion within people so powerful they remember and act on it. Once you are armed with this, everything else falls into place. Awareness. Credibility. FUNDING.

Before I guide you through the brainstorming process, I will tell you what your brand shouldn’t be. It is not your logo, tagline or color scheme. It shouldn’t be about you. Your brand mustn’t reflect what you think you need to tell people; it must be what people NEED or EXPECT from you. 

Here’s an example: You’re a K-8 Spanish immersion charter school. You believe kids should learn Spanish at an early age. But what about distinguishing your school as a place dedicated to helping children become informed and interconnected global citizens?  Now, this resonates with me because I know it will benefit my son and give him an advantage when he enters middle school and beyond. But guess what? This institution preparing our children to live and work globally also resonates with international companies with offices in Latin America; global companies with foundations who give hundreds of millions away each year. They will invest in a school dedicated to bringing up their future workforce.

Ok, let’s get this brainstorming bash started. Here’s a zippy framework for your day.

  1. Write your objective. Distribute it to attendees, and post it grandly for all to see during the session. Your example objective: Create and define a brand that elicits a specific emotion within people so powerful they remember and act on it.
  2. Set a time limit, up to 4 hours.
  3. Capture all ideas as they flow from the group and specifically follow this process:
  • Hand out a stack of note cards
  • Bring up one Idea Starter (see below) and ask each participant to write down four (4) ideas per starter on one note card, then hand the card in and so on.

Idea Starters are the outcome of your research. Use present tense when presenting the category or goal for discussion[1], for example:

Category: Emotion Evoked

  • We are warm and nurturing (Red Cross)
  • We are nonjudgmental (Planned Parenthood)
  • We are Aggressive and Energetic (DAP – Domestic Abuse Project)

Category: Perception Evoked

  • We are Mature (AARP)
  • We are Youthful (Tree House)
  • We are Activists (PETA)
  • We are a Service Organization (Catholic Charities)

Category: Target Market Appeal

  • We appeal to East African Immigrants (American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa)
  • We appeal to parents of children with a life-threatening illness (Ronald McDonald House)

Now address your brand goal by asking participants to provide at least 4 answers on how to accomplish the goal, and then prioritize each goal. Then determine which goal is your priority and how to accomplish it.

Goal:     Our brand engages a sense of community not only externally, but inside our organization as well (Nike)

Goal:     Our brand motivates groups of strangers to come together because they feel a shared experience or passion (Susan B. Komen)

Goal:     Our brand is our lighthouse – guiding and driving all messages, strategies and identifiers back home (Target)

Goal:     Our brand is clear and simple (Geek Squad)

   Goal:     Our brand is focused and will endure (Coke) 

4.  Display ideas by category on white sheets of paper around the room – place slash marks next to similar ideas.  Take the two most popular ideas for each category and as a group agree on one idea per category.

5.  Take the top idea per category. You may feel that you fit many of these profiles, but choose the one(s) you want to come through the strongest in your brand. Your brainstorming session is now adjourned.

6.  You and perhaps one board member take those top ideas and define your “Brand Positioning Statement” which I promise will match your brand objective.

If you feel you need a bit more guidance on using your top ideas to create the brand, I found brandeo.com to be very helpful. They say there are four elements, or components, of a positioning statement (Simons, 2010):

  1. Target Audience – the attitudinal and demographic description of the core prospect to whom the brand is intended to appeal; the group of customers that most closely represents the brand’s most fervent users.
  2. Frame of Reference – the category in which the brand competes; the context that gives the brand relevance to the customer.
  3. Benefit/Point of Difference – the most compelling and motivating benefit that the brand can own in the hearts and minds of its target audience relative to the competition.
  4. Reason to Believe – the most convincing proof that the brand delivers what it promises.

Template for a Positioning Statement:
For (target audience), (brand name) is the (frame of reference) that delivers (benefit/point of difference) because only (brand name) is (reason to believe).

My Brand Positioning Statement for the Spanish immersion charter school:  “For parents who want their children to have the added benefit of bilingualism, Spanish Immersion Academy[1] is the Spanish education cultural  gateway that delivers an added advantage for young minds as they enter middle school and beyond because only Spanish Immersion Academy is firmly positioned to groom our future decision-makers to live and work in an interconnected world and economy.”

Now that you’ve defined your  Brand Positioning Statement, what do you want to accomplish with it and how will you measure those accomplishments? According to brandeo.com the criteria for evaluation follows (Simons, 2010):

  1.  Is it memorable, motivating and focused to the core prospect?
  2. Does it provide a clear, distinctive and meaningful picture of the brand that differentiates it from the competition?
  3. Can the brand own it?
  4. Is it credible and believable?
  5. Does it enable growth?
  6. Does it serve as a filter for brand decision making?

DAY TWOBUILD YOUR BRAND BRIDGE!  Now that you’ve defined your organization’s  Brand Positioning Statement, you need to give it a face. That face is your organization logo and tag line. And while the logo, tag and colors you choose are not your brand – they do bring the brand experience full circle and serve as expressions of your brand that communicate it to your core prospect. It’s possible your current logo and tag line remain relevant even with a new brand. When possible, build on the brand equity you’ve already developed. It’s possible to update your look while still retaining recognizable hints.

Creating or renewing your logo doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, the single most important element of a logo is oftentimes your organization’s name or acronym of your name, combined with a color scheme that fits your brand.  Your volunteer designer was a participant in the brainstorming session and has a handle on an appropriate font, color(s), and design elements which augment your brand. The tagline is your mission sound bite. A good tagline doesn’t just tell people what you do in a few short words – it instantly evokes a feeling that is consistent with your brand. These elements must resonate, poised for recall.  If your brand is memorable, it will last a long time.

Recently the YMCA of the USA was ranked the #1 nonprofit brand by Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100 (DaSilva, 2009) report. It makes sense, all you say is “The Y,” or see The Y. And getting back to my point about tag, logo and color; I didn’t realize until this blog that the Y changed its color “Y” from Red. Of course there is a reason for the new assortment of color s and that creates various new impressions related to their brand, yet, by keeping their logo, “The Y”, their brand equity was not tied to the color of their logo whatsoever.

In everything you do on Day One and Day Two, remember that your brand is your bridge to the public’s head, heart and ultimately hands, either by their gifts of time, items, funds, or all three. Your brand has to be versatile and meaningful for everyone it speaks to, including those who support your work, and those who benefit from it.

DAY THREE – GET ON THE SAME PAGE: Part I, Organizational Training. During the Preparation Phase, schedule a mandatory 1 – 2 hour staff meeting for Day Three. If your entire staff didn’t participate in the brainstorming session or some board members couldn’t make it, this time will be blocked off on their schedule for you to announce your new  Brand Positioning Statement and the detailed process (including those involved in the process). It’s important to illustrate the brainstorming process you used to arrive at the new brand. You need organizational buy-in. Next, train your staff and key volunteers on your new brand and how it’s to be used. Ensure that every person working or volunteering for your organization has this information, or that it’s accessible to them. 

I like to invest in a supply of 2 GB flash drives (priced between $1 – $5) to save all your branded materials on and distribute to staff and board for use. It’s often helpful to create key messages and talking points for the organization. Include those on the flash drive and strongly emphasize the importance of using the brand consistently across departments.

Many organizations feel the need to create a dense and rarely read brand style guide. I don’t believe in them. Brands are no longer static. Today they’re fluid, flexible and nonlinear (Greenberg, 2008). In order to stay on track with your brand and organization identity you need to revisit it annually to ensure your message remains relevant – if not, adjust. This doesn’t mean you change your logo (as we know, that isn’t your brand), you subtly adjust your brand messaging.

This is a fast paced society – an on-line environment is in a constant state of “real time” change. It could be prompted by a current event, negative publicity, or economy shift. You must position yourself to evolve as our world evolves. Change is hard; one can make it an easier transition if they are prepared to remain fluid, flexible and open to the likelihood of change whenever needed.

Next, review all organizational materials to ensure brand application, bringing it to life and use as soon as possible. Review your letterhead, business cards, website, newsletter, brochures, flyers, signage and more. Then assign a watch dog to ensure that the integrity of your brand and messaging is maintained.

DAY FOURTRAIN YOUR AMBASSADORS TO BECOME STORY TELLERS: Part Two, Organizational Training: Everyone associated with your organization has a life outside of it. I train my nonprofit clients to use all opportunities available to them in their daily lives to become ambassadors of the organization. What you do or what you’re involved in comes up as a topic of conversation. Whether you are at your child’s soccer game, your book club, at dinner with friends, or in a grocery line, prepare your ambassadors to acknowledge these opportunities and then use them to tell your organization’s story, giving your new brand legs. This is where talking points become useful.

Storytelling remains your single most powerful communications tool in verbally reinforcing your brand identity because it innately creates an emotional connection between you and the person you are speaking with which can then be reinforced using social media.

Your story must be concise, clear and compelling.  Begin by writing out the story you tell donors, from your perspective. What motivated you to get involved, what motivates you to stay, the good that you have witnessed and how it made you feel. Keep it short and share with your fellow storytellers.  If the story is confusing and poorly conveyed, the intended audience will dismiss it in a matter of seconds. However, if it’s engaging and touches the heart, he or she will likely become entranced and moved to use their hands – either by volunteering, giving stuff, money or all three. Prepare your internal family to become enticing storytellers as they move through their day.

Here is an example of the key message and talking points to provide your ambassadors to use in creating their personal story and emotional appeal:

Key Message: This is a description of how you are delivering on your promise.  “Spanish Immersion Academy offers parents of elementary-age children the opportunity to give them a bilingual education which prepares their children to live and work in our increasingly interconnected world.”

Talking Points: Describe the unique benefits of your organization, or a unique way the organization provided an advantage to you or a member of your family.

  • Full Spanish Immersion (from the moment dropped off, to the moment picked up, students speak Spanish)
  • A maximum of 18 children per classroom
  • Offers advanced classes and classes for learning disabilities, along with extracurriculars like band, art, gym, and music
  • A close-knit community – every teacher not only knows my child’s name, they know my name
  • While at work with me, my 5th grader overheard a gentleman ask for directions to the elevator in Spanish. My child answered the question and had a fluent conversation with him. Lyndon was beaming with pride afterwards. It was the first time he fully understood what his Spanish education will mean for his future.

DAY FIVE – TAKE IT GLOBAL! By Day Five you’ve defined your brand: 1) The organization is differentiated from others and can authentically deliver on its promise to fulfill the mission. 2) The logo and tagline enhance your brand by instantly evoking a consistent emotion or feeling. 3) Your key message and talking points are defined and the organizational family will convey your story in a manner which inspires involvement.

Now you’re ready to use technology to take the brand online! Believe it or not, there are people out there actively seeking brands that are right for them. In your case, they are seeking a nonprofit organization brand that matches their personal value system. Furthermore, they are actively seeking a nonprofit brand because they are ready to dig in and help. This typically happens in the New Year, as people solidify their New Year’s resolutions or goals.

It could be my industry or the fact that the information age is “nearly” as old as I am, but the fact is that if something piques my interest – a phrase, nameorganization, association, topic –  I Google it. Depending on what bubbles-up – website, Facebook page, LinkedIn or Twitter account – I check in to find out more. If what I find strikes a chord, I “share” it.


Honestly, if you’re not online with your brand, you don’t exist. You certainly aren’t fully respected by your peers, nor will they believe you can deliver on your promise to fulfill your mission. Let me imprint the importance of creating your online home in a manner that you will retain beyond this reading. Remember what I said earlier? You must be poised to evolve as the world around you evolves. And today an individual’s first interaction with a brand is commonly first witnessed through digital technology. If you ignore the place of social marketing in today’s world, your brand will remain invisible.

Chris Garrett of chrisg.com recommends that if you want to build your online brand, you have to know how all your activities work together. You need consistency and congruency. Each part of the social media puzzle builds into a picture people have of you; how they imagine you to be relates to how you really are to the degree you get this stuff right (Garrett, 2008).  Chris also suggests that the best way to approach social media is to choose your venues and connect them in some way to your blog. I agree, because that’s what I do. My blog is the truest representation of my company and its brand. Yours should be too. All our best stuff originates and is archived in this place. When I Google you, you want me to land on your blog or your website which clearly links to your blog.

DAY SIXCOLLABORATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY! If all is done well, your most dynamic donors are inspired to collaborate or form a solid partnership with your organization because they are invested in its success and sustainability. You have successfully attracted newcomers, increased interest in current donors and  recovered lapsed donors into more active participants, all because you now express who you are in a way that builds your close-knit community of donors, volunteers and community partners.

Now that you are out there standing tall, proud and true to who you really are – you’ve attracted new attention, gained renewed respect – it’s important to acknowledge your hard work and sustain your newly found presence by sharing blog-posts, event announcements, and newsworthy articles on a monthly basis. In January 2011, my blog topic was how to Build an On-Board Strategy. This is what I’m asking you to address and create on Day Six. Ensure you are fully prepared to retain and grow the new and renewed interest you have now created within your organization. Here are the six steps I provided in order to build your on-board strategy: 1) Email quarterly newsletters, 2) Send out regular press releases and press clippings, 3) Add your website, Facebook Page, Twitter ID and current blog topic to your email signature, 4) Host an open house, 5) Solicit letters of endorsement from donors, city officials, celebrities, etc. and place them on your website and social media sites, 6) Meet with new donors or renewed donors in person, not to ask for a gift, but to solicit feedback on any aspect of your organization, mission, or brand.

DAY SEVEN – MAKE SURE IT WORKS! The last seven days have been trying, I’m sure. It’s important that what you’ve created is working. In all you do, you must evaluate and track your outcomes. There are free tools to track your online success such as Google Alerts. Simply choose keywords associated with your organization and Google will send a link to your email with any online news that has this keyword. It lets you know who is writing about you or reprinting articles or blogs you have posted online. With free analytics, you can also track if your renewed brand and online presence is driving more traffic to your website. Again there are free tools through Google called Google Analytics. You can also use the free tool Clicky Web Analytics. Both are easy to understand and will show you how many people found your site, the total number of visits, bounces (people who leave the site without going past the first page) and so much more.

Google Analytics will let you know where your website traffic is coming from (Arkansas, Amsterdam, Uganda), who it is (male/female), and their IP address. Using Google Analytics, I recognized that many international NGOs where visiting my website and staying. I began to market directly to NGOs. As a result, my international business went up by almost 40%.

In closing, developing a strong brand is hard work; it takes a lot of time and a commitment to giving your organization a recognizable image in the community. But you wouldn’t be doing it if you didn’t realize how important that is to every single aspect of a nonprofit’s activities, from bringing in clients, to fundraising, to collaborating with partners, to getting great board members and volunteers on your side. The hard work a good brand will do for you is well worth the effort. Ultimately, it’s all about building brand equity and the amount of money a donor will give just because it’s your brand.

[1] Fictitious name

[1] In parenthesis I have place a nonprofit which I feel fits this brand

January 2, 2012

Five Simple Steps to Evaluating Your Program

By Jenelle Montoya and contributing author Marcie L. Wagner

January 2012

For a startup nonprofit, the idea of “program evaluation” can be overwhelming, and yet funders are increasingly asking grantees to provide not only numbers served, but demographic information and outcomes-based information. As more nonprofits compete for a reduced funding pool, it’s important that they know and understand the difference their investment made in your ability to carry out the organizational mission. Let’s say your mission is to provide a safe place for youth.  Sure, you may have given Jim a place to sleep for the night, but how did that positively impact his life and his future? What did you do for Jim to prevent him from having to use your services in the future? How many “Jim’s” did you help in 2011? How many did you turn away? What are their ages? Where did they come from? Why did they come? How many are high school drop outs? How many have their GED? How many are immigrants? And so on….

The secret to getting started is to keep program evaluation simple and include board members, staff, and anyone else involved in data collection and use. It’s easy to end up with “analysis paralysis” if you try to do too much too soon. Realize that program evaluation is a process, not an event. It can take many months to implement, and years to refine. What’s important is that you get started now. If you receive grant funding, you really have no choice. We are here to help!

STEP ONE: Decide What You Will Measure. First you need to know what outcomes your funders want at year’s end. Second, you must track the information your organization’s leadership needs in order to make knowledgeable decisions that either impact the course of your organization’s future or ensure your organization is tracking with your strategic plan (if you have one). This process can be as simple as reviewing different reports required by existing funders and the grant guidelines of your prospects. Sit down with your board president or create an ad-hoc Program Evaluation committee to take on the task. There are several levels of knowledge you might need when it comes to collecting program data:

  • ·         Data including age, residence, income, race, ethnicity (demographics)
  • ·         Numbers served, goods distributed, or other units of service you define (outputs)
  • ·         The impact of your services on the lives of your clients (outcomes)

Demographic data is easy to collect. It can be as simple as handing each client a form to fill out. If confidentiality is important, your form doesn’t require a name.  In order to count numbers served or units of service, staff must be trained to record the people they serve each day and the specific activities they engage in with the client.

Measuring the impact your services make on clients is a bit difficult, but it can be the most valuable and rewarding data you collect.  If you decide to measure impact, it will benefit you to explore creating a logic model. A logic model illustrates the relationships between inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and goals that create the structure and flow of your organization. Briefly, inputs are the resources that go into making your program activities possible, such as technology, training, people and funding. The activities you undertake as part of your program are what you will do to accomplish your goals. Outputs are the product of your program, as in the number of people served or the number of items distributed or made. Finally, outcomes are the impact of your work on those you serve, or the change affected in their lives. Logic models are a complex topic and there are many different approaches that can be taken to developing one for your program. Resources are available for assistance in creating a logic model, including the United Way of America’s book “Measuring Program Outcomes,” which is available at www.unitedwaystore.com for a mere $5. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has also created a more complex logic model guide which can be downloaded free from their Knowledge Center at www.wkkf.org.

Finally, set quantitative goals around the items you’ve decided to measure. If you exclusively measure demographics, create a goal that 80% of clients served are classified homeless by federal definition, which helps you measure the impact of organizational outreach, or marketing and advocacy work. If you measure numbers served or other units of service, your goal could be to provide 1,000 children with shoes in a 12-month period, or provide 800 hours of community outreach to areas with high youth crime rates. An example of an outcome to measure impact would be that 75% of clients are able to provide for their food and shelter needs upon exit from your program, or that 60% of individuals receiving parenting education report a greater sense of harmony and wellbeing in their households after they complete a course.

STEP TWO: Determine the Tools You Will Need. Assess your current evaluation tools, such as client intake forms or reporting already required by current funders, refining what you’re already doing and preventing duplication. The tools you need and the cost of collecting data depends on what you’ve decided to measure and the complexity of your plan. If you’ve decided to collect demographic data, you can use current intake forms by including questions which add depth. If you collect numbers served or units of service involve your staff in deciding how to do it efficiently. Use simple ticker sheets compiled by hand, or use electronic spreadsheets with embedded formulas to automatically tabulate numbers. Google Docs offers a free way to create electronic forms in an online database which allows you to distribute to a number of users via email. The software automatically compiles the numbers submitted on the forms into a single spreadsheet which you can use for reporting. A more costly option is to purchase database management software.  There are several companies offering tailor-made solutions.

When collecting outcome-based data to measure impact, it can be difficult to determine the best method. Let’s go back to Jim. After providing Jim with a place to sleep for the night, your outcome is to link him with community resources and increase his knowledge and utilization of such services, and to ensure he follows through and uses your referrals. In order to accurately measure the outcome, you could provide him with an exit survey allowing him to rate your services and the likelihood that he will follow through with the referrals on a numerical scale. Let’s say Jim does return; during the intake rate his level of improvement on a scale from 1 to 5 since his last visit. At year-end calculate how many clients returned once, twice, or never. If you come up with a logical way of quantifying this data, you can easily record it in a database and tabulate it. Remember that you are the expert when it comes to your work and the data collection methods most applicable and reasonable for your particular service(s).

STEP THREE: Assign Responsibility. When possible, put this responsibility in the appropriate staff person(s) job description. When you designate a person to manage the data collection process, including compilation and reporting, you are 90% on your way to success. Make sure you choose someone who has the skills and understands the value in evaluation, and then provide them with the tools and training. In our hypothetical “safe place for youth” scenario, it makes sense to designate staff in charge of client intake and discharge to collect and manage data collection. If data collection is new to your organization and the responsibility was not in a job description upon hire, you may encounter resistance from program staff to take on additional tasks.  We suggest you don’t act flip about adding to their already long list of responsibilities Instead, introduce data collection in the form of a PowerPoint presentation to the entire staff. Begin with your logic model, as it will best convey that program evaluation requires everyone’s full support and assistance. It will also clearly explain who is best positioned to collect the data: program staff. Place a quantitative value on the importance of data collection and how it will directly and positively impact their job and their work with clients by, for instance, sharing the amount of support received from funders who require the data. Well done evaluation opens the door to new and increased funding; it gathers emotional and financial support from your community as you tell your story through qualified and quantified data which proves you’re making a difference.  

STEP FOUR: Implement. You’re ready to implement the project evaluation plan once you’ve decided what to measure, obtained and prepared the necessary tools, and determined who is responsible. Implementation should begin by creating a clear and concise procedure manual. This manual will define those responsible, the timing and frequency of data collection, and when and how often reports are produced and reviewed. It will also serve as an invaluable resource for training new staff. Your designated data manager(s) must be vigilant in the beginning, checking in on staff to ensure they follow the procedure. In an effort to make your oversight seem less invasive, solicit suggestions on how the system is working and whether there are ways to improve the system and make it more efficient. Ask all staff responsible to track the amount of time data collection is requiring and watch closely to see if the time allotted begins to wane as they grow accustomed to the process. When you secure new funding, double check your current data collection to ensure your existing system will provide the evaluation data they require; if not, implement their unique specifications as seamlessly as possible and update the staff, forms and procedure manual.

STEP FIVE: Utilize your Data. This is the step where many nonprofits tend to fall short; conversely it can be where the process of collecting data and evaluating comes full circle via new, renewed or upgraded gifts.  

Most likely your organization has a strategic plan. Every decision your board makes should relate directly to that plan. A strategic plan primarily takes into account all things related to successfully and sustainably carrying out your mission over the long haul.  This information boils down to finance and program impact to make certain your organization or program is carrying out its mission. You feed your board this information as a result of successful data collection. If your data reveals problems or issues, leadership can make informed decisions and act accordingly. If your data reflects positive results, send out a press release and publicize your successful outcomes in your newsletter(s), annual report, and website.

All donors (whether corporate, foundation or individual) want and need to know their return on investment. Their return on investment can be given qualitatively through client testimonials, and quantitatively by showing impact in numbers. For example, maybe you’ve helped 1,000 people increase their knowledge of how to gain employment by 80%. That’s something to celebrate!

A program evaluation system is beneficial to nonprofits on many levels.  Developing the system requires organizational investment, but it doesn’t have to be cumbersome or costly. Some orga­nizations may feel they can’t afford to spare any amount of time for such a project. We say organizations can’t afford to ignore such a project. If nonprofits want to survive and thrive, they must acknowledge their duty to supporters and clients by measuring the impact (or lack of impact) of their mission.

October 5, 2011

Is a Budget your Case for Support?

I was recently interviewed for an article published in Education Grants Alert, published by LRP Publications. When Editor Krista Birkeland White told me the topic was about  “Using the Budget to Tell the Story” I paused – am I the right person to offer advice concerning a budget? Ugh, this truly is my least favorite piece of the grant puzzle. With that thought, I asked Krista to send me her questions in advance and soon appreciated that I am perfectly practiced on this financial story-telling topic. After all, my favorite piece of the grant puzzle is crafting the case for support and the research required to back it up with stats and facts.

When writing the budget “story” your organization’s finance manager and program officer will make the difference of winning or losing the grant. Your relationship with these individuals is crucial – you must write the grant as a team. Why? It is simple.  This is the only manner in which you can create an authentic budget. A budget that does not under or over estimate the cost of the program you are required to fund.

A budget is all about numbers, right? Wrong. This is where your program officer tells you a story. You see, a successful budget isn’t just about the numbers; it is also about quantifying the numbers by including a budget narrative. A budget narrative backs up your case for support; it lets the prospective funder know how you arrived at that cost (research) and why this cost is essential to your programs success and sustainability (story).  So how does this work? Here is an example. You have your excel spreadsheet budget or their (the funder) budget template finalized to perfection because these numbers came from the program officers needs for program implementation and the finance officers ability to attach a justifiable cost to this programs needs.

Now let’s take one of the itemized costs and create a narrative for it. Imagine that the program which requires funding is for a team of plastic surgeons to travel to Haiti and care for the earth quake victims (true story). Clearly this budget will include travel, lodging and meals. So how do you find out the cost of a hotel in Haiti? Research and phone calls. In the budget narrative you tell your funder what hotels you contacted, who you spoke with and then take an average of the accommodation costs based on contacting a few hotels in Haiti. Next, Haiti at that time was not safe – it wasn’t secure, these surgeons needed security to navigate the area and ensure their safety. How did I know the country was very unsafe – one of the surgeons told me in a conversation; after that conversation I placed security in the budget and then spent a significant amount of time researching and finding those who offer security in Haiti. When you dig deep,  you end up with an authentic budget and a savvy funder will know you are sincerely fiscally smart and responsible. Keep your budget and budget narrative to one page, two at the most. How is this possible? Not all items in your budget require explanation. For example, you could lump airfare, lodging, and meals into one sentence. It’s unnecessary to explain supplies unless its cost is outside the norm.

Now let’s be clear, if the prospective funder has a very specific template you fill out and they do not ask for a narrative to your budget – do not put a narrative in the grant. This simply goes back to the golden rule of grant writing. If a funder asks you specific questions and only wants those questions answered – you do exactly that.

What I’ve really given you here is a grant writing process for budget generation. Sit down with those people that need the stuff and those people who work the numbers. When this happens you have a full understanding of the project and can identify gaps (like a security team to escort surgeons in Haiti). Foundations are making an investment in your project – they want to know and understand where the money is being spent and if it is within reason. Trust me, funders will know if your budget is a hunch and those grants attached to it may become confetti.

June 12, 2011

SMALL NON PROFIT? 10 Steps to Build your Fundraising Infrastructure

SMALL NON PROFIT? 10 Steps to Build your Fundraising Infrastructure


You do not need a state of the art fundraising software program – but you need something. Inexpensive programs to consider are: Telosa Exceed! Basic, eTapestry, DonorPerfect Online, Sage Fundaising 50 (formerly Paradigm).

Visit my website at www.wagnerfundraising.com/resources.html to download a well done spreadsheet with pros, cons, features and cost of the most common software programs. Fundraising software allows you to keep track of all your constituents. You have the ability to generate correspondence (thank you letters, pledge reminders, e-blasts). Whatever system you use, it must allow you to track all “personal interactions” between you and your stakeholders. You need the ability to update information easily, and generate lists of constituents by affiliation (dignitaries, staff, current donors, community groups, donors giving at a certain level or frequency). As a small non profit you require an easy to use program which can produce “canned” reports; the ability to run a query is nice, but requires some skill to get it right. The software purchase must come with technical support. If there is a glitch, tech support is priceless.

Upon the purchase of your software program, proper training is essential. Perhaps more importantly, one person should be responsible for entering data. This responsibility cannot be delegated to various volunteers; there is too much room for data entry error and lack of adequate training. Without reliable data entered into the system, into the right fields, all ultimate report generation is worthless.


It is rare to find a fundraising software program which integrates accounting/bookkeeping software. In fact most new non profits use Quick Books, or the Treasurer of your Board is responsible for keeping the books for ultimate IRS reporting.

Reconciling your fundraising software gifts or pledges with accounting is essential for two main reasons. First, it will let you know immediately if you are entering data incorrectly or have missed a contribution. You see, when you reconcile with a bank statement you KNOW that information is correct. Second, when you make your fundraising report to your Board you want your fundraising numbers for the month to jive with the numbers Accounting will be presenting. Otherwise, it’s an embarrassment and you will need to justify the discrepancy.



Yes, you have so many other things to do, yet without two specific procedures you will be bruised from kicking yourself. Here’s why.

First, you should have a fundraising procedure on how donations are handled; and I am talking about from the moment the postman brings in your mail to the point of the check being deposited. It’s an easy procedure to put into place. The person who gets the mail should sort what looks like a donation and the procedure will explicitly state they are not authorized to open that envelope. This person will take the unopened donation envelopes to accounting/bookkeeping. Once in the hands of the bookkeeper, the gift is opened, check is endorsed and two copies made. One copy for the person managing the fundraising software for gift entry and the second copy for accounting files. This way you only have ONE person handling the “cash”. If you are audited, they will hold you in high regard for having this procedure in place.

Second, you need a procedure for entering information into the fundraising database, including frequency of sending thank you letters. This procedure will include 1) who receives copies of checks,  2) who is responsible for gift entry, 3) how to enter specific information into the database (snag this information from your training manual and, 4) to reconcile your data with accounting each month.

What I have described above is a very simplified version of your procedures; it should  be much more detailed. Each step by step move must be documented should the person who is responsible leave. It would be a luxury to hire a professional fundraising consultant to assess your systems and write these protocols and it would be money well spent.


This policy will be a part of your data entry procedures manual, as many organizations will undoubtedly receive gifts made inkind. You need to define what is and what isn’t considered an “inkind” gift. An inkind gift that is needed by your organization is considered budget relief, because the item(s) was budgeted; meaning you would have had to purchase it had it not been donated. When you receive an inkind gift that is budget relief, you must have inkind listed as one of the methods of how the gift came to you. In your fundraising database it will be part of the menu that allows you to select if it was given by Visa, Cash, Stock, Inkind. You select inkind, because the gift is treated like cash, so the donor must provide you with the market value of that inkind gift.

If you receive an inkind gift that is not budgeted, that’s great if you can use it; however it is tracked differently, it would be tracked in the comments or other similar section of the donors profile in your database – but it does not appear in that donor profile as a gift. Having said this, you need to think about how to track these as they should receive acknowledgment as well, even though it is not budget relief.


Many organizations are made aware of grants available that seem to fit the mission. If a prospective grant is not clearly related to your mission, but would be nice to have; give it some thought and read the fine print. Oftentimes there are reporting requirements attached to the grant and it generates more work for an already overworked staff.

Here is an example: An organization was made aware of a grant for Canopy’s that provide shade for playgrounds. For a school it sounds great, right? However the grant required the school to create a curriculum on “protecting children from the sun or the potential for skin cancer”. They also required one person to manage the program. This curriculum was not part of the school’s mission or current curriculum, nor did they have staff available to manage the program. If the school were to have accepted the grant it would be called, in my words, “chasing the money”.

Make sure that each grant written and received fits your mission and supports your established programs. You want all money received to be directly attached to what your budget requires in order to hit your year-end goal.


When creating your website – seeing is believing. You should consider:

a. Your Mission is Clear: It should take only a couple of seconds for one to arrive at your site and know your mission.  People will expect to find the answers to their questions on  your website.

b. Be Donor-Friendly: Make it simple for people to donate. Your homepage should include one or more direct links to your donation page and they must be prominent.

c. Be Volunteer-Friendly: Oftentimes volunteers are as valuable as contributors. Create a link   or tab called Volunteers or How I Can Help. This will list volunteer opportunities and  information on how to begin the volunteer process. Always include the name, phone and email   of the person to contact directly if they want to help in anyway.

d. Be Press-Friendly: Include a link on your homepage for Media. This link takes them directly to your press kit: Include press-ready photos, pre-approved quotes by your organization’s representatives, a synopsis of your goals and how you’re accomplishing them, and a calendar of your activities. Also, provide the name, email, and direct phone number of anyone approved to represent your company. Finally, include any press coverage you’ve received on this page.

e. Add a Blog (only if you have time to keep up with it): A blog will increase your search engine ranking as well as keep visitors up to date on the goings on of your organization.  Link your blog to others of similar topic and interest; again, it will increase search visibility.

f. Include a Resources Section:  Link your site to others of similar value. It’s not a  competition,  it’s giving your visitors a great experience and sets you up as the place to go for information on  your specific mission.

g. Keep Your Content the Focus: Your website should raise money, encourage volunteers, and educate the public. To be successful,  make sure the content surrounding your mission is the most prominent aspect of your site’s design. Your site design should complement your content.

h. Update and Supplement your Website on a Regular Basis: Your site should be updated at least monthly. Otherwise it reflects poorly on your organization if content is outdated.


Take a half hour out of each day to walk through your offices. Ask questions, show interest, be affable (not threatening). Your daily self-tour shouldn’t be viewed as “checking up” on your employees, rather   the opposite -checking in to make sure they have all they need to do their job. Walking Management is better than an “open door” policy – you are going to your team and it creates an environment of trust and success.


A non profit requires a brand and identity just as any for profit business. You define your unique look and feel which clearly reflects your mission. Once your brand is   created, stay true to it. Don’t cut corners here. Every  piece of literature online or off line looks the same –  you want to bring your organization to the point where one only has to look at the colors, design and know it’s you – the organization name doesn’t need to exist.

A larger piece of this is ensuring that all working within the organization understands what it is that you do – they know the mission. If an employee is asked by anyone, “what is it that your organization does?”, all will have the same answer. At all staff meetings, I would commonly ask everyone to write down the mission statement, and those who got it correctly received some type of prize.


Many organizations create a 5 year strategic plan. Equally important is a yearly fundraising and   marketing strategic plan which includes a detailed, week by week calendar, along with who is responsible. This plan is review every two weeks and I consider it to be a “living, breathing” document; which means it will change and should. This plan should be in direct compliance with the organizations 5 year strategic plan and fundraising goals. For an example of a Fundraising and Marketing  Strategic Plan go to the Resources tab at www.wagnerfundraising.com/resources.html, and you will be   able to order a template.


Creating a functional and strong board is very simple. First, craft a job description which indicates expectations, including the amount they must donate each year. Second, host a board    training, and have each board member shadow a staff member for an hour; they will really know “their” organization after this experience. Last, have the following experts represented on your board: attorney, accountant, professional volunteer (one with resources and time), a person(s) who are   experts with regard to your mission, estate/financial planner, Employee(s) who represent your corporate donors.


March 9, 2011

Family Feud: How to Prevent Falling into the Board Member Conflict Trap

Family Feud:  How to Prevent Falling into the Board Member Conflict Trap.

Amid these “Difficult Economic Times” (a term nearing cliché status), organizations are suffering – money lost through investments, down-turn in annual gifts and everyone pointing fingers; “Our Board Members won’t provide names or ask their social network for support”  OR , “Staff isn’t hitting fund raising goals, we need to trim budgets, cut staff and management will take up the slack”. A perfect storm for conflict, a family conflict. In my eyes, staff and board are family, and family dysfunction makes everyone uneasy and stagnant. 

The crux is, there seems to be more chatter about  board/staff conflict than ever.  It’s understandable, fundamental changes are required during times like these. More than ever before your Board and staff must bond together and find ways to change, remain relevant and effective. People are watching, particularly donors.

All the same, we know “change” begets discomfort and discontent.  Undoubtedly at the turn of every corner you will be reminded of and faced with resistance as you delicately mold your organization into a trimmed-down, lean-and-mean machine.  Did I just use “delicate and mean machine” in the same sentence? Yes, I did. Considering your best bet in delivering the goods is walking that fine line between diplomacy and standing  strong on firm ground. What you must avoid is ignoring those  grappling with  the transformation. Your organization requires everyone moving in tandem.  The unfortunate truth?  It’s extremely unlikely that everyone will; including board members. Internal conflict is brewing.

Board conflicts are among the most challenging a nonprofit executive faces. They generally come in two forms—conflicts among board members and conflicts between the board and management. Both of these difficult situations require special consideration. Oftentimes, the Board and Executive Team are aware of the conflict, take sides and continue on as if all is well; until income dwindles and despite all efforts, recovery is unattainable.

If this sounds familiar; let me tell you, it almost always takes a third party (preferably a professional fundraising consultant) to come in and fix the “fundraising” problem. Any good consultant will suspect, fairly quickly, that internal conflict launched the loss of funding. Yet, there is confidence in a brighter future. I’ll tell you why. When greeted with this situation, I’m mindful of the job at hand. I am there to fix fundraising; the internal conflict is a vexing side-effect. But you do need to care for the side-effects before you can fix the fundraising. Here’s how:



1) Identify your key stakeholders. Who “gets” it and will work hard to salvage relationships.

2) Don’t get pulled in. Assumptions will be made that you’ve taken a  side. The solution is to not have “side” conversations. Whenever possible involve those key stakeholders in all conversations and decisions.

3) Understand the relationships among your board and staff. Who is aligned with whom?

4) Understand the genesis of the problem. Once you have create a value proposition (reciprocal benefit) for each of them.

5) Address problems immediately. Determine the best person to address those brewing issues.

6) Specifically Align your Key Stake Holders to the organization’s “Fundraising Recovery Plan”

7) Ask for help, and show that you are willing to listen and change

Once you have appraised the situation, put your recovery plan (this isn’t the blog on the resurrection of an annual fund – look for that in April) into place understanding that it MUST bring the staff and board into alignment. The money will follow. Here’s how:


1) Policies: Do Board member policies need to change? What are their expectations? Are they aware of their expectations? Are board members trained and given the organization “elevator speech”?

2) Job Description: If the answer to Q1 is NO, then are Board Member Job descriptions in place? Are Management Job Descriptions in place OR up-to-date?

3) Giving: Is it abundantly clear that “Family Gives First”? We are not just talking about our volunteer board members; staff must contribute and that should be clear (the amount for staff giving is less important than the simple act of giving any amount). 100% participation – Right? Right!

4) Recruitment Practices:  Is the Board diverse, representing all aspects of the organization: Legal, Finance, Community Volunteer (with a strong social network), Member’s Representing the Mission, and Money Managers.

5)   Board Meeting Inclusion: Are board meetings open to staff members? If not, open the door. While it is appropriate to have a portion of the meeting “closed” as an Executive Session; but then open the doors to those on the front line, your staff.

6)   Relentlessly communicate the same vision, values and mission. Whether you ask the person vacuuming the floor or the President of the Board, “What is this place? What do you do?”, all will respond will the same answer. Everyone understands why they are there and they are PROUD

7)   Provide multiple opportunities for staff input

8)   Issue staff progress reports and successes regularly

9)   Create a culture of openness, you are a family

10) Be present – both physically and emotionally

11) Motivate, energize, and reward staff quickly for positive results in moving forward

12) Gather Board and Staff together whenever possible, eliminate division and unite your family

If the above practices are put into place as part of the “Fundraising Recovery Plan” you will have the Board and Staff aligned and working together with joy and a renewed sense of enthusiasm. For those who do not “get it”; they must be cycled off the board or if staff, they must be let go. Just as Enthusiasm Breeds Enthusiasm. Poison Containments the Well. And that Well is money. What can you expect when Board and Staff are aligned?


!    Your resources (fundraising) will grow

!    Your Brand and Name Recognition is Amplified

!    Synergy equals sustainability and growth

!    Energy is spent on creating a fun environment rather than conflict resolution

!    It offers credibility to new board members and revitalizes current board members as they    understand they are a part of the organization’s family.

!    It gives you a structure and system to foresee and better manage discontent before   escalation

Once you bring the team together (each with a designated role) working alongside you to implement the plan to jump-start fundraising, your byproduct is the group working together. As your Board and Staff watch the plan work, with funds flowing in not out, moral increases and bad feelings wane.

January 10, 2011

NEW IDEA’S FOR THE NEW YEAR: Create an On-Board Strategy!

NEW IDEAS FOR THE NEW YEAR: Create an On-Board Strategy

What is an On-Board Strategy? Simply put, it is a strategy to keep those new 2010 donors on board. Fundraising Professionals know that it costs more to acquire new donors than it does to retain current donors.

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) acquiring new donors through direct mail averages between $1.25 to $1.50 cost per dollar raised with a 1% rate of return vs. renewing current donors via direct mail which averages $.25 cost per dollar raised with a 50% rate of return (better).

Makes for a pretty good case to develop an On-Board Strategy for 2011 doesn’t it?

This fundraising consultant believes that the most important element to consider while developing your On-Board Strategy is keeping in touch with your current donors or as I like to call them, new family members – because that is exactly how they should feel. So let’s start there. Here are six simple ways to stay in touch with your new family members.


  1. E-mail quarterly newsletters.
  2. E-mail press releases and press clippings.
  3. Promote your website and other social media (facebook, Twitter et al) on every e-mail sent. Ensure your website and social media is continually updated and informational.
  4. Host an open house or other appropriate event bringing your donors to you face-to-face.
  5. Letters of endorsement. If appropriate personally contact your donors (within a specific giving level) and thank them for their support while also asking for an endorsement you can place on your social media sites. This will not only convey appreciation, but will also engage them more intimately in the promotion of your organization.
  6. Identify those within a certain giving range and grab a cup of coffee to discuss your organization and get their feedback on why they give and thoughts on the future of the organization; make it clear this is not a meeting to ask for money (that will come later).

Now that you have some ideas on how to keep in touch with your donors, the second element of your On-Board Strategy should be to develop and implement ways to better engage your donors. Here are four simple ways to successfully engage donors.


  1. Find ways for donors to hear your success stories, when possible use p ictures or post video’s onYouTube of your work in action.  This brings your mission directly into their home  environment.
  2. Let your supporters know what your organization is currently working on, inform them on any internal changes, provide them with a contact person if they have questions, suggestions or want more information.
  3. Make it easy for your donors to become active in your organization. Ask them for advice, insight, time (as a volunteer), leadership (on the board or committee), advocacy. You will be surprised at their willingness to do more than “just give money”.
  4. Always let volunteers and donors know how much you appreciate and count on their support. And do this immediately after their gift of time or money. Let them “see” the difference they have made for the people, place or thing which serves your mission.
  5. Publish lists or photos of your volunteers, donors, committee members and friends (those who give in-kind gifts) in newsletters, on a designated wall in your building, your annual report, website and so on. Make sure they are sent a copy of the publication or email directing them to the website or other social media site.

The third element of an On-Board Strategy is to make certain your donors don’t feel their usefulness is only a financial one. In fact an On-Board Strategy is less about fundraising and more about advocacy for your mission. If you successfully, concisely and continually promote your mission, the money will follow. Here are a few ideas to turn your donors into advocates.


  1. Host a monthly or quarterly breakfast or lunch to discuss issues around your cause, welcoming your donors as active participants and problem-solvers. Perhaps include a  guest speaker as a draw.
  2. Strategically invite certain donors to write a post for your blog on why they support your cause AND how the relationship has made a difference in their life.
  3. Invite donors to mention your non-profit or “like” your organization on their social media sites. Create and provide them with a “widget” to include on their website.

And finally, if you do not do this already, TRACK your donor retention. You want to know what strategies and tactics work. The only way to do this is to diligently track the percentage of donors retained each year. You can start now. Generate a report listing donors who did not renew in 2010; at the end of 2011 run the same report and my guess is you will find you lost fewer donors or rather you RETAINED more donors.

The best of luck and success in this New Year! Marcie

December 16, 2010

TIC TOCK: FIVE Professional Fundraising Ideas For Year-End Procrastinators

 TIC TOCK: FIVE Professional Fundraising Ideas For Year-End Procrastinators

Twas the Night Before Christmas, and all through the House, Grownups were surfing and clicking their mouse. The kids were asleep and the stockings were loaded, With ipods and Wiis and things sugar-coated. And now it was time to think of some others, The poor, disenfranchised, sons, daughters and mothers. Worthy cause emails came in by the scores, Making the case for donations and more. Which one to choose, and what to do then, Join, donate, or give—oh how much and when? But the sites were a mess and the forms were a tangle, The wanna-be donors’ nerves came a-jangle. It was too much confusion and they were so tired, You’d think it would be easier to make charity wired. Donate tomorrow, they said to themself, Was enough work today to be Santa’s elf. And so off to bed, the causes can wait, If it had only been easier to give or donate. Contributed by seechanges.org

December 31st is upon us. How can it be? Weren’t the kids in Halloween costumes last week? For crying out loud, their candy remains in a pillow case tucked in their room. And didn’t I just prepare a succulent Turkey? How did this happen? What am I to do. According to Professional Fundraising Consultants, December is so important, over 45% of annual giving comes in December.

of those December donations, nearly half arrive during the last 6 days of the month. There’s still time. This Fundraising Consultant urges you to  get moving NOW, here’s how.

1)      On-line Giving:  The growth in online giving is especially notable the last week of December, when online giving’s advantages of convenience and immediacy are crucial.  Use this to your advantage. If you have a list of supporters’ email addresses, get out an email blast using Constant Contact, they offer a free trial period and according to my nonprofit clients, it is super simple to navigate and BLAST. If you’re having trouble, their support team is ACES. Fundraising experts will tell you that as a rule of thumb you can expect a donation from about 1 percent of your list. If you send an email to 1,000 people, expect about 10 of them to donate. However, online donors typically give slightly larger average gifts than other donors.

2)      Mailings:  Send out an appeal between the 26th and the 31st of December. The last week in the year is always hectic which means your message should be short and simple; reminding people how easy it is to make their year-end gift online in the last few days of the month, in the nick-of-time for their tax deduction. Our fundraising consulting groups most successful mailings were sent on December 30th with a simple call to action, “Still Time to Donate in 2010!”

3)      Think through your story and strategy: As with all fund raising techniques, compelling pitches with pictures are more successful. Include examples of past projects and thank you letters for those you’ve helped. A well-chosen image provides a taste of inspiration. By all means, stay away from stock images and most definitely do not use negative imagery, like starving children. Sad images, valid or not, are proven to make people “click” away from your page.

4)      Limit Donor Options: Wagner Fundraising Group determined that giving people too many options stresses them out and they will ditch you. If you are driving donors to your website to give via your email blast or direct mail piece, then make darn sure once they arrive you have ONE or more LARGE “donate now” button(s) on your landing page rather than a full range of navigation options to donate.

ONLY during this time of year will this fundraisings consultant tell you to eliminate choices to give monthly, join, donate, renew, check out planned giving options, etc. During these last few weeks of December provide a single donation choice that literally jumps off the landing page and keep those donors on task … MAKE YOUR YEAR END GIFT BY DECEMBER 31, 2010.

5)      Thank Your Donor Three Times:  Giving is a very intimate and personal process, they are not getting anything in return except warm and fuzzy’s. Use the finish page as your first opportunity of thanks. The finish page is that screen that comes up once the donation process is complete.  Include and image which also conveys your gratitude.  Send another thank you via email a few days later.  In January send donors a tax receipt – your third and final gesture of thanks and goodwill. Finally, if the gift is large – $500 or more, make a phone call of thanks. If there is no phone number, send a hand signed letter.  

Avoid Procrastinating Next Year. Block off time now for the month of January to  develop a detailed and strategic Development Calendar laying out all deadlines and milestones in order to reach those deadlines. DO NOT forget to indicate who is accountable to meeting those deadlines.  

If you have any questions on how to raise money during this holiday crunch, please contact Marcie Wagner at marcie@wagnerfundraising.com. Happy Holidays and our very best wishes to you in the New Year.

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